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Jean Bach, Jazz Documentarian and Fan, Dies at 94

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Jean Bach, a lifelong jazz zealot whose fascination with a photograph of the titans of jazz gathered in front of a Harlem brownstone in 1958 led her to make a prizewinning movie about that moment, “A Great Day in Harlem,” 36 years later, died on Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 94.

The photographer Carol Friedman, a friend, announced the death.

A print of that black-and-white photograph—one of the most famous in jazz history—had for years hung in the office of Ms. Bach’s husband, Bob, a television executive. Art Kane, a fashion and music photographer on assignment for Esquire magazine, had taken it on Aug. 12, 1958, in front of 17 East 126th Street, off Fifth Avenue, having assembled 57 jazz musicians for the group portrait at the ungodly hour—for most of them—of 10 a.m.

On the stoop or standing in front of it were Count Basie, Lester Young, Gene Krupa, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver, Sonny Rollins, Marian McPartland, Coleman Hawkins, Gerry Mulligan, Mary Lou Williams and 44 other musicians (along with children from the neighborhood). Esquire published the photo in 1959.

After her husband died in 1985, Ms. Bach, a radio producer, learned that Milt Hinton, the bassist and jazz photographer, had a home movie of the original 1958 shoot. Though she had no experience making movies, Ms. Bach acquired it and decided to use it as the basis of an hourlong film, complementing the footage with interviews with musicians who were in the photo, clips of their performances, and narration by Quincy Jones.


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