Buffalo jazz artists recreate iconic 1958 “A Great Day in Harlem” photograph

Apr 17, 2012

Recently some notable local jazz musicians gathered in Buffalo to recreate a famous photograph.  Proceeds will benefit the restoration of a Buffalo home once owned by world-renowned jazz legend Elvin Shepherd and a new city school.  

WBFO and AM-970’s Eileen Buckley tells us about the local remake the iconic 1958-photo -- “A Great Day in Harlem”.

The significance of the “A Great Day in Harlem” photo to Buffalo centers on Elvin Shepherd.  Allita Steward is assisting with the Shepherd House Restoration Committee.

He was suppose to be in that picture because he was living and working in Harlem at the time," said Steward.

But Shepherd missed that 1958 photo shoot.

“But we believe he had to come home to see about one of his children.  His entire family was here in Buffalo. So he had to make a trip to come back to Buffalo,” said Michael Quinniey with the Shepherd House Restoration Committee and chairman of the Western New York Minority Media Professionals.

“I think it was somewhere in the mid 80’s just jokingly he brought up the topic of  A Great Day in Harlem.  He said those were all my friends…I hate I missed the picture,”said Quinniey.

Quinniey and Steward decided it was time to gather some great jazz artists on the steps of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society to create “A Great Day in Buffalo” jazz photograph, circa 2012.

“We went through hundreds of jazz musicians here in the area.  Names, people, associations, and we managed to find a really great group of Buffalo’s past and legends and future and present ones.  So we went to nursing homes and senior facilities, and we also got young musicians that are playing at the Color Musicians Club and taking lessons there,” said Steward.

So who would you recognize in the photo.

“Most prominent as of late is Boyd Lee Dunlap who many recall just had his first CD release after years of supporting and training many of the industry’s best musicians,” said Steward.

Steward also represents the Wisteria School initiative which is the creation of a new, independent school in the city to open this fall.  Some of the proceeds from the photograph will also benefit the school.

Quinniey noted that assisting the school in honor of Shepherd will continue to carry out his mission.  Shepherd also trained young musicians.  He even trained greats like Miles Davis.   

“Buffalo has rich music history, but more importantly the Wisteria School, because Elvin Sheperds’s whole life was working with young people. His whole life was helping young musicians from Miles Davis to Grover Washington Junior,” said Quinniey.

Shepherd died in 1995.  In recent years his Laurel Street home landed on Buffalo’s housing demolition list. But the Western New York Minority Media Professionals stepped in working to restore the home and turn into a music learning center and jazz museum. 

Friday, April 20th from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Babeville on Delaware Avenue, the Shepherd House Restoration committee will debut the “A Great Day in Buffalo” photograph.