A Great Day in Harlem
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Time Out saysBach's documentary avoids all the clichés of jazz retrospection by concentrating on a single event on an August morning back in 1958. Esquire magazine's then art director, Robert Benton (yes, he of Bonnie and Clyde and Nobody's Fool), commissioned a photo from Art Kane containing as many jazz musicians as possible standing outside a brownstone in Harlem (57, plus one club-owner, in the event), and, unofficially, bassist Milt Hinton brought along his home-movie camera. There are so many stories here. The musicians had hardly seen each other in daylight before - 'They never knew there were two 11 o'clocks in one day,' said one. They were so pleased to talk to each other it was difficult to get them to stand still, and even then Dizzy Gillespie pulled a face which cracked up Roy Eldridge, and street urchins stole Count Basie's hat. Thelonious Monk was late. He'd been deciding on an outfit to eclipse the company. Johnny Griffin today remembered Monk with awe, and Sonny Rollins remembered Lester Young as someone briefly visiting from another planet. All the contemporary interviews are fascinating and touching, too: Blakey and Diz are gone now. The musical clips aren't over-familiar and are killingly good. A wonderful, warm little movie.