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Royal Roost, New York City 1948 b/w photograph by Herman Leonard

Original b/w photograph of jazz trumpeter, bandleader and composer Dizzy Gillespie (1917—1993) by Herman Leonard. The photograph is taken at the Royal Roost in New York City in 1948. The Royal Roost was a jazz club located at 1580 Broadway in the Theater District of Manhattan. Originally opened as a chicken restuarant by Ralph Watkins, the club began to showcase the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Dexter Gordon, Tadd Dameron, and Max Roach in 1948. The presence of so many prominent bebop musicians performing at the Royal Roost led to the club being nicknamed “the Metropolitan Bopera House,” a pun referencing the club’s close proximity to the nearby Metropolitan Opera House. In 1949, a record label, Roost Records, was founded by Arthur Faden, Bill Faden, Monty Kay and Ralph Watkins, which recorded many of the musicians who performed at the club. In September 1948, Miles Davis debuted his nonet at the club. By the early 1950s, the jazz component of the Roost was moved to Watkins’s new club, Bop City. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1921 to Romanian Jewish immigrants, Herman Leonard In 1948, Leonard opened his first studio in New York’s Greenwich Village at 200 Sullivan St. Working free-lance for various magazines, he spent his evenings at the Royal Roost and then Birdland, where he photographed jazz musicians such as Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and others. The number of shots possible at a time was limited. Using glass negatives at this time, Leonard increased the sensitivity of the plates by exposing them to mercury vapor. Leonard died in Los Angeles on 14th August, 2010, aged 87. In 2012, the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles presented a year-long retrospective called  “Herman Leonard: Documenting the Giants of Jazz”. And in 2013, The William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, AR honored Leonard’s work with a major five-month exhibition, “Jazz: Through the Eyes of Herman Leonard”. The exhibition also included artifacts from many of the artists that Leonard photographed, including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker and Ella Fitzgerald. President Clinton has called Leonard “the greatest jazz photographer in the history of the genre.”

Offset planche bichromate print with shiny varnish. Dimensions: 20.8 x 25.6 cm. Label and annotations on the back. In excellent condition and ideal for framing. Additional photos available on request.


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