May 20, 2019

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Is This the Greatest Photo in Jazz History?

Is This the Greatest Photo in Jazz History?
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One photo from the Open Door that night has since become a jazz icon. It shows Parker standing out front, wearing a light suit, two-toned loafers, his arms thrust forward, blowing what appears to be his famous King brass alto saxophone. To Parker’s left is Monk on upright piano, microphone slung over the instrument. Two drinking glasses and a dinner plate perched on top. At Monk’s right is Mingus, slouched over his bass. Along the back wall is Mr. Haynes, his eyes fixed on his bandmates, himself under the gaze of the two mysterious mermaids painted on the wall behind him.

It has since been called by many “the greatest photo in jazz.”

Bob Parent died in 1987, and his photo archive is curated by his nephew Dale Parent. “We refer to it as ‘the Photo,” said Dale. “It’s a monument to his craft and we take great pride in its appreciation.”

Charlie Parker’s stepdaughter Kim, who is now 75, has a copy of the picture that she keeps in her home in Pennsylvania. “I am thankful for all the photos,” Ms. Parker said. “I live with the ghosts.” For her, the photo is priceless. “I’m looking at it now,” she said when reached on the phone. “Roy Haynes had a crush on me at one point,” she recalled. “Monk was my favorite, loved Monk. I wish I was there that night.”

Mr. Haynes is now 93, the only living member of the quartet that night. He still has memories of that performance. “It was beautiful, man,” he said recently. “I was at a very young age. So I was enjoying it. Playing with great people. “

“It’s a terrific band, a pity no one recorded it,” said Mr. Morgenstern. There is no set list. It’s a fair bet that the Thelonious Monk composition “52nd Street Theme” was performed, but we can only speculate.

Though the club was far from packed, for those who were there it undoubtedly was a memorable night. Four legends of the great American art form, together for an all-too-brief moment.

That brings up an interesting question. A lesser-known photograph shows a glimpse of some audience members. In the background, at a front table, there sits a dark-haired man in a dark shirt smoking a cigarette. It has been speculated over the years he may very well be Jack Kerouac.

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