Have you been listening to the Jazz Loft Project radio series airing this week on WNYC? If not, it’s not too late to catch up. Episode Three’s coming this afternoon. The whole thing is highly recommended.
Here’s an overview from the station’s site:
“Photographer W. Eugene Smith moved into a loft at 821 Sixth Avenue, in
the heart of New York’s Flower District, in 1957. The place had already
become a hangout for artists, writers and especially jazz musicians,
who rehearsed and jammed there. Among the visitors to the loft:
Thelonious Monk, Zoot Sims, Bill Evans, Steve Swallow, Mose Allison,
Bob Brookmeyer and hundreds more, over a period of about 8 years.” (Read more here.)
Smith eventually recorded over 4,000 hours of life in the Jazz loft, from jam sessions to conversations to what happened to be playing on the radio or television. The tapes are an audio supplement to the 40,000 photos he took during the same period — or vice versa: maybe the photos supplement the audio tapes.
Either way, the series makes for a fascinating slice of New York’s arts scenes in the late 50s and early 60s. Sam Stephenson of Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies discovered the tapes in an Arizona archive in the late 90s. No one had listened to them in the 20 years they’d been housed there. In addition to producing this radio series with WNYC’s Sara Fishko, Stephenson’s also written a book that’s due out next week, and the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts will host an exhibition of Smith’s photography.