The 1959 Project: A New Photoblog Takes a Day-By-Day Look at 1959, the Great Watershed Year in Jazz

If you’ve hung around Open Cul­ture long enough, you’ve heard said that 1959 was a water­shed year for jazz—the year of modal clas­sics Giant Steps and Kind of Blue, “har­molod­ic” mas­ter­piece The Shape of Jazz to Come, and the for­ev­er cool Time Out and Min­gus Ah Um. Six­ty years lat­er in 2019, these exper­i­ments and con­fi­dent leaps for­ward con­tin­ue to mark piv­otal moments in mod­ern music—moments doc­u­ment­ed heav­i­ly by the pho­tog­ra­phers who gave the albums their inim­itable look.

To cel­e­brate that year in musi­cal break­throughs and pho­to­graph­ic near-per­fec­tion, sports­writer and jazz his­to­ry “super­fan” Natal­ie Wein­er has launched a blog called The 1959 Project. “The premise is sim­ple,” writes Tim Car­mody at Kot­tke, “every day, a snap­shot of the world of jazz six­ty years ago.” Sim­ple it may be, but its dive into jazz his­to­ry is deep and sat­is­fy­ing. The project has already occa­sion­al­ly strayed out­side the lines, post­ing mate­ri­als from 1958 and 1960. But great moments in music his­to­ry can­not be forced to fit tidi­ly inside cal­en­dar years.

In addi­tion to icon­ic pho­tos, Wein­er posts short sum­maries, news clip­pings, film and tele­vi­sion clips, and record­ings from albums like Milt Jack­son and John Coltrane’s Bags & Trane (1960). Yesterday’s post focused on Max Roach’s 1959 The Many Sides of Max (see him in the stu­dio with Book­er Lit­tle at the top). Jan­u­ary 18th brought us Jack­ie McLean’s Jackie’s Bag, record­ed 1959, released 1960, fea­tur­ing Don­ald Byrd, Son­ny Clark, Paul Cham­bers, and Philly Jones, and made for Blue Note by the great Rudy Van Gelder.

Only twen­ty-three days into the year and The 1959 Project has already cov­ered Ken­ny Dorham and Can­non­ball Adder­ley, Bill EvansCharles Min­gus (for 1958’s live Jazz Por­traits), and singer Ani­ta O’Day, rid­ing “a wave of crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess” after her 1958 album Ani­ta O’Day at Mis­ter Kelly’s. That’s only to men­tion a hand­ful of the entries so far. “It only promis­es to get bet­ter as the year goes on,” Car­mody writes—and so does the depth of your jazz knowl­edge and appre­ci­a­tion if you check in with this ded­i­cat­ed project even once or twice a week.

via Ted Gioia/Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1959: The Year That Changed Jazz

The Cry of Jazz: 1958’s High­ly Con­tro­ver­sial Film on Jazz & Race in Amer­i­ca (With Music by Sun Ra)

The Impos­si­bly Cool Album Cov­ers of Blue Note Records: Meet the Cre­ative Team Behind These Icon­ic Designs

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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