Local artists recreate iconic jazz portrait

Jacksonville's LaVilla neighborhood remembered as 'Harlem of the South'


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In an effort to bring the artistic community together in Jacksonville, a project called "A great day in Lavilla" that is attempting to duplicate the imagery and symbolism of the iconic 1958 photo: 'A Great Day in Harlem.'

The photo is regarded as one of, if not the single greatest jazz portrait of modern times, as so many artists of that time came together as a community. This effort was and is moving forward in a spirit of goodwill to reach across the genre lines and make the artistic community and culture in Jacksonville a more cohesive and visible unit.

"We are looking for creatively conscious artists that have been notably recognized and respected by his or her peers. An artist that believes in the intellectual awareness and uplifting of this community. Someone that is concerned with the influence of their artistry on and off the stage, making sure to be concerned with more then just their art."

A Great Day in Harlem is a 1958 black-and-white group portrait of 57 notable jazz musicians photographed in front of a Brownstone in Harlem, New York City. The photo has remained an important object in the study of the history of jazz.

Art Kane, a freelance photographer working for Esquire magazine, took the picture around 10 a.m. on August 12, 1958. The musicians had gathered at 17 East 126th Street, between Fifth and Madison avenues  Esquire published the photo in its January 1959 issue.

Kane calls it "the greatest picture of that era of musicians ever taken."

Jean Bach, a radio producer of New York, recounted the story behind it in her 1994 documentary film, A Great Day in Harlem. The film was nominated in 1995 for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature. As of April 2012, only four of the musicians were still living.

During the height of activity in the LaVilla neighborhood of Jacksonville -- the 1920s through 1960s -- it was known as the "Harlem of the South."

During its heyday, the four blocks of Ashley Street from Broad to Davis streets were the core of black life in Jacksonville before integration.

Not much is left of this once vibrant landscape. However, by mixing historic images with present day conditions, artists have put together a decent visual description of Jacksonville's Jazz Era entertainment district.

The neighborhood contained many venues -- the Ritz Theatre, The Knights of Pythias Hall and many clubs on the Ashley Street strip -- which showcased black entertainers and catered to black audiences. Landmarks included Nick's Pool Parlor or the Strand, the Frolic and the Roosevelt Theaters for a diversion. The Wynn/Egmont Hotel provided accommodations for traveling entertainers; the Boston Chop House, Mama's Restaurant and Hayes Luncheonette provided food; the Lenape Bar and Manuel's Taproom were the favorite watering holes.

For more information about the project contact, visit DayinLaVilla.com or contact:
Ahynte – (904) 458-7576 – Ahynte@ahynte.com
Cyntoria Thomas – (904) 887-3737- Cyntoriathomas1@gmail.com
Jihan Grant – (904) 403 – 5693 - Jihan@digitalmissdesigns.com