The Jazz Loft
According to W. Eugene Smith
Watch the trailer.
Special thanks to pianist and Seacoast Jazz Notes reader Fred Giordano, who kindly called our attention to this documentary film released in 2015. The film depicts an eight-year project by the former LIFE magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith, called “perhaps the single most important American photographer in the development of the editorial photo essay.” Note that Smith was also regarded as something of an eccentric, one whose output was so prodigious it was difficult to organize.
Between 1957 and 1965 in a run-down loft on Sixth Avenue, in New York City’s business district, Smith recorded the sounds and photographed the images of dozens of jazz musicians who came to jam night after night in the loft, next to which Smith lived. The musicians themselves were unaware that Smith was capturing everything they played, good and bad, everything they said to each other, and photographing their activities.
Thanks to the excellent work of director Sara Fishko and editor Jonathan J. Johnson, we enter the world of some of jazz’s most illustrious figures during a period in time many consider the genre’s finest.
Thelonious Monk comes by for three weeks of rehearsals in preparation for his now-famous Carnegie Hall concert. Drummer Ronnie Free, newly arrived from South Carolina, gets hooked on hard drugs, having been turned on by a drummer who was his boyhood idol years before. Julliard instructor and classical composer Hall Overton, emerges as a jazz guru.
The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith is available in DVD and streaming forms.