Jazz night at the Apollo
New York City, N.Y.
By Zoran Milich
It was a blistery cold day in New York City as I shuffled in with hundreds of other locals to the historic Apollo Theater to document a rehearsal performance of the Apollo’s new production, Apollo Club Harlem.
An older crowd obediently lined up in the dark corridor of the theater lit by grand chandeliers. They pointed at the wall of pictures of great musicians that performed at the Apollo such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Sarah Vaughan, Michael Jackson and many more.
Guests at the rehearsal would be replaced that evening with those arriving in long black limousines, none the less they trembled with excitement knowing they were about to be transported back in time with music, dance and song of the Jazz era that seeded at the Apollo in the 30’s and 40’s.
Classic chairs, tables and lamps replaced the theater’s traditional seats and set the atmosphere reminiscent of Harlem’s music night clubs. The dark mood was an extreme challenge for my camera relying on the flicker of light to illuminate my subject matter.
Moments before the curtain went up, chatter in the crowd buzzed with stories of growing up in Harlem, New York City, and the extreme difficulties of those years. They talked about the great musicians and how they shaped their lives. One table spoke of Duke Elington while another Count Basie. Dizzy Gillespie came up and the innovative tap styles of John Bubbles. All were to be brought back in the next few minutes.
“When a society forgets its old people, it forgets itself,” I heard said somewhere. This event was all about the past brought back to life today. My favorite image was the elderly couple who sat dressed in the finest clothes of that era. They were living witnesses to the classics that make what music is today. Tonight when the music plays, they will be young again.