The Most Iconic Photo in Music History Inspires the Co-Naming of 126th Street in Harlem

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A year ago this week, artists and activists staged a commemorative photo to celebrate the day, in 1958, when dozens of jazz giants gathered in New York City for an immortalizing reunion that became an Esquire cover spread. “A Great Day in Harlem,” the original, features more music legends than any photo before or since, from Mary Lou Williams to Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, and many others. The day is still getting its due: This Thursday, 126th Street between Fifth and Madison will be co-named after the photo.

Place names, or place-names, can uncover and recover the past, a way of mapping meanings. That’s the rich terrain of the new book Names of New York: Discovering the City’s Past, Present, and Future Through Its Place-Names, by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, whose publication is well-timed as a backdrop to the street’s naming. Two saxophonists from the original, Rollins and Benny Golson, both in their 90s, have prepared remarks for this Thursday’s naming ceremony.

In anticipation, get the week going with Rollins’ “Where Are You?” and Golson’s “Lullaby of Birdland.”

More Recharges to propel the week:

• Alice Coltrane’s devotional recordings from 1981 are out, with organ and voice, and an illuminating poem by Thulani Davis, featured by Recharge before. Davis’ outstanding profile in the New York Times is a must-read; she is, among immeasurably many highlights, the first woman to win a Grammy for best album notes.

• The National Endowment for the Arts has named its 2022 Jazz Masters: Billy Hart, Cassandra Wilson, Stanley Clarke, and Donald Harrison Jr. Revisit our conversation with Hart in tribute to Roy Haynes’ 96th birthday.

• The team behind Bodeguita bar in Bushwick is renaming it Ornithology Jazz Club, co-owner Rie Yamaguchi-Borden tells me. The no-cover venue’s grand opening is planned for August 29, the birthday of its namesake, Charlie Parker.

More good news welcome at recharge@motherjones.com. Now back to your regularly scheduled peril.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaire owners wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

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