Feeling like intruders, we witness a moment of encounter captured in a
photographic image on the slipcover of a compact disc titled A Morning
in Paris. Taken many years earlier and made public for the first time in
1997, the close- up in black and white of the two faces exudes a feeling of
familiarity, even intimacy, in the way in which the eyes interlock. These
are two unlikely subjects: a young woman of ambiguous racial marking
and an older man in a brightly lit public space. He occupies the left of
the frame, she the right. We see only one side of their faces. The partial
shadow that covers the man’s cheek darkens his complexion, and then
we notice the detail in the hair: this is definitely a man of African de-
scent. His ear catches our attention. It is poised to hear. The light casts
less shadow on the woman’s countenance: dark, straight hair with delib-
erate curl, fine features, and distinctive eyebrows. We are given few clues
about the nature of the encounter between these two people. Her head is
tilted up toward his, he tenderly returns the gaze. The mouths of both are
slightly open: neither seems to speak, except perhaps in whispered tones.
The woman’s imprint: her handwriting is superimposed in white on
the mechanically reproduced title in indigo, white, and red: Sathima Bea
Benjamin, A Morning in Paris. A block of the city skyline underscores
the text. A European city, a woman’s name, Sathima, not recognizably
European, but no further clues about origins or community. Snippets of
the fleur- de- lys are inserted below. Is she French? Algerian perhaps? He
looks familiar but lacks a name. Should we know who he is?
A Morning in Paris was launched on 23 February 1997, in Carnegie
Hall in New York City. Thirty- four years after it was recorded, and well
after the death of the man in the photograph, the woman, South Afri-
can–born Sathima Bea Benjamin, celebrated the rediscovery of the tapes
from her studio session in Paris in 1963. Finally she had proof of her first
personal encounter with the man whose music she had come to know
among passionate jazz fans and performers in Cape Town, in the mid- to
late 1950s. Though he had never traveled to South Africa in person, the
young woman felt she already knew him because she had worked so in-
tensely with his music through close listening to records, seeing him on
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