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December 22, 2020

Amazing Vintage Photos Capture Legendary Artists During a Jam Session in 1939

In August 1939, LIFE magazine sent photographer Charles Peterson to shoot an assignment which was never featured in the magazine. This invitation only jam session was organized by jazz guitarist Eddie Condon and promoter Ernie Anderson.

It took place in New York at the Riverside Drive apartment of cartoonist Burris Jenkins. The guest list included Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Ivie Anderson, Hot Lips Page, Billie Holiday, Harry Lim, Pee Wee Russell, Johnny Hodges, Chu Berry, Cozy Cole, Clyde Newcombe, Bud Freeman, and Dave Tough.


  1. I'd say Rex Stewart, J.C. Higginbotham and Juan Tizol deserve to have their names mentioned along with the others!

  2. Trumpeter Max Kaminsky and valve trombonist Brad Gowans were present, too, and I think the other pianist is Dave Bowman. Ernie Anderson is the one in sunglasses; he was also an editor at Esquire magazine. I may misremember, but I think in the last photograph Anderson is holding out the phone to Pee Wee Russell (on clarinet) to prove to his boss at Esquire that he was actually at the jam session. Jam sessions like this were common in New York and pretty much any major city with a jazz scene - which was pretty much every major city - in the 1930's.

    All these photographs with captions listing everyone of note who was present can be seen in the excellent book, Swing Era New York: The Jazz Photographs of Charles Peterson. It's long out of print but easy to get and reasonably priced.




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