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The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith

613 Views 5 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Ken
I don't know if I've been sleeping or the rest of you have, but have you all seen the 2015 documentary "The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith"? What a wild ride!

Photographer Smith had a dumpy loft building at 821 Sixth Ave in NYC from the late 1950s through the 1960s that was part residence, part photographer's studio, and part informal jazz performance space. Smith recorded thousands of hours of audio there, excerpts of which serve as the background to the documentary with talking heads including Smith's children, a lid-less Phil Woods, author Robin Kelly, drummer Ronny Free, Carla Bley, Jason Moran, Steve Reich, Steve Swallow, Bob Northern, and many more.

The most amazing part is the section on the collaboration between Monk and the composer/pianist/arranger Hall Overton for the Monk Orchestras at Town Hall concert and album in 1959. The arranging and band rehearsals took place over a period of weeks at the loft, it seems to all be on tape, and is sampled here as Phil Woods and Bob Northern discuss the entire experience. Absolutely crazy!

It's available for free on Amazon prime and well worth a look.

There's a related book The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957-1965 and a radio series available here:
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For anyone who hasn't seen this and doesn't have Prime etc, check out your local library's streaming service, that's how I saw it. I'd heard about the loft scene in NY back in the day and also like photography so this was great to see. My favorite part apart from the chapter about Monk was the one about Zoot Sims, how someone would turn up during the day after an all night session and there was Zoot Sims still playing by himself while the others around him had all crashed.

Yes! I watched it a few weeks ago. Very interesting. He had microphones everywhere, under the stairs, in the bathrooms on bookshelf, etc.
On a somewhat related note I just saw a PBS documentary on Rosa Stokes, a librarian and civil rights activist who video taped 35 years worth of TV news pretty much 24/7 from 1977 to until her death in 2012 at which time it was stored in nine properties and three storage units. The Internet Archive is now in the process of digitizing it.

Just did a quick search and found a link to some of the loft sessions:
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