The Ghosts of Harlem
In the mid-1980's Les Pockell suggested that I think up another jazz book, something a little more ambitious than The Eddie Condon Scrapbook of Jazz, I had done with him a decade earlier. My idea was The Ghosts of Harlem; it was both a book and a photo project.
The idea was simple. I narrowed down about 120 musicians to a more select list of about fifty who were active when that legendary town within a city was at it's musical peak. I asked them the same ten questions and photographed them in their homes with my Deardorff view camera. The questions were largely centered around "where did the music go and why did it leave?" The portraits were all posed very formally. No one could be playing an instrument; a few chose to hold one. There were hundreds of supplemental photographs, as well as pertinent memorabilia interspersed with the interviews and portraits.
The book was issued in French in 1996, forty-one musicians made the cut and still the book came out to 431 pages. In 2009, the English language version appeared and of the forty-two musicians in the book, only three are alive today, Clark Terry, Frank Wess and Billy Taylor. I photographed a few noted musicians who performed uptown after the book was published, and I continue to do so. I consider these photos as part of this project. There are still five more people on my list that I would like to do, but I'd better hurry.