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The Ghosts of Harlem
Sessions with Jazz Legends

Author(s): Hank O'Neal

From 1985 to the present, Hank O'Neal interviewed 42 jazz legends who made music in Harlem during its heyday and decline. In their homes or immediate neighborhoods, he took their portraits with a large-format view camera and talked with them about what had been the best places to play, the interaction of the races, and about why the Harlem scene had faded.

For each 'session' with a jazz legend, O'Neal has supplemented the interview and portraits with many of his other photographs, historical photographs and memorabilia. From the archives of Chiaroscuro Records, O'Neal has produced a CD that accompanies the book, which features sixteen of the 'ghosts' playing at the ends of their careers, between 1972 and 1996, including Cab Calloway, Milt Hinton, Doc Cheatham, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Tate, Eddie Barefield, Earl Hines, and Illinois Jacquet.

Biography of Author(s)

Hank O'Neal, President of Chiaroscuro Records and HOSS, Inc., has produced over 200 jazz LPs and CDs and over 100 music festivals. Books of his own photos include several jazz titles and Gay Day: The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade. He is also the author of several books on photographer Berenice Abbott.


  • Selected as an "Outstanding" University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.
    2010 AAUP Bibliography
  • "Brings back alive—in interviews and photographs—the very life rhythms of a time in Harlem that continues to deeply resonate in this international language."
    Nat Hentoff, co-editor, Hear Me Talkin' to Ya, The Story of Jazz As Told by the Men Who Made It
  • "Hank O'Neal's loving portraits, visual and verbal, capture the spirit and soul of the Harlem that once was."
    Dan Morgenstern, Director, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University
  • "The Ghosts of Harlem is a definitive work because at long last we're hearing forty-three important musicians tell us about their work in their own words. The illustrative photographs are amazing, and Hank O'Neal's large format portraits are extraordinary. This is a book of historic significance and I recommend it to anyone interested in the development of jazz in America."
    Bruce Lundvall, President & CEO, EMI Jazz & Classics
  • "Hank O'Neal's The Ghosts of Harlem offers an unblinking look at the end of a fabled era."
    NOTES: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association
  • "O'Neal has been able to resurrect a world that has been forgotten by all but scholars and a few diehard aficionados. He accomplishes it by bringing together interviews, music (an enclosed compact disc features many of the musicians he interviewed), and a wide range of photographs. . . . [T]he intimacy of the interviews and the presentness of the photographs create a synergy that conveys the time much more powerfully than either mode alone could do. One can feel Harlem in the 1930s when reading the interviews, and one can both see and imagine the time from the photographs. . . . In [O'Neal's] work, the aural-visual symbiosis is ever present as the music of Harlem vividly sounds throughout the sumptuous pages."
    Journal of the Society for American Music
  • "This is a must read for all those interested in Harlem's role in the development of jazz, whether they are aficionados or new fans."
    Arthur H. Barnes, Chairman, The National Jazz Museum in Harlem