Paris Blues Revisited

It’s not too late: There are still 10 days left to visit the exhibit “Paris Blues Revisited” in Jazz at Lincoln Center on Columbus Circle in New York. The exhibit documents the collaborative effort of artist Romare Bearden, writer Albert Murray and photographer Sam Shaw to capture the unique creative milieu of black American artists living in Paris in the 1950s.

The idea for the book was prompted by the 1961 film “Paris Blues,” which Shaw produced in an attempt to capture his friend Bearden’s own Paris experiences. The film starred Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll (with brief, delightful appearances by Louis Armstrong), and featured a musical score by  Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. As might be expected of a commercial venture though, it  made enough concessions to Hollywood’s marketing mentality for Murray, Bearden and Shaw to want to supplement it with something that would be more true to Bearden’s experience and do justice to Ellington and Strayhorn’s music.

Their solution was their own “Paris Blues,” a book featuring collages by Bearden, text by Murray and photographs by Shaw. The project was never completed, but the pieces of it exhibited in Rose Hall — described by co-curator Robert G. O’Meally as a “book on the wall” — give a taste of what might have been.

“Paris Blues Revisited” at the Peter Jay Sharp Arcade, Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle, New York City, through February 28.