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“Jazz Lives” at the Art Gallery

Funeral bands march through the streets of New Orleans. Blues singer Ann “Mama Cookie” Cook poses in profile, eyes closed, amid unpainted clapboard shacks. Billie Holiday, in what was to be her last recording session, holds a drink and looks down wearily next to the microphone.

This slow summer afternoon is as good as any to note a wonderful student-curated exhibition that has been up at the Yale University Art Gallery since April and can be viewed through September 7. “Jazz Lives”—decide for yourselves if the second word is a noun or a verb—features two different photographic views of the jazz world: photographer Lee Friedlander’s documentarian views of New Orleans over several decades, and bassist Milt Hinton’s more personal shots of jazz greats in the recording studio and on the road.

Seeing the show today on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, I was struck by the fact that three of  Hinton’s pictures in the exhibition feature musicians—from Cab Calloway’s band, with whom Hinton toured—posing under signs of the segregated South: “HAMBURGERS HOT DOGS LUNCHES FOR COLORED  ONLY,” “COLORED ENTRANCE,” “MOTEL FOR COLORED.” In some cases, their expressions are somber, but in others, they point and smile at the signs.

But that is more or less a footnote in a show that hums with the vibrancy of a deep and complex musical culture. If you’re going to be in New Haven some time this summer, check it out.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Yale University Art Gallery, Milt Hinton, Lee Friedlander, photography, jazz
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