In the ‘50s and ’60s, celebrated photographer W. Eugene Smith recorded the sights and sounds of hundreds of people in and around a loft building in Manhattan where major jazz musicians and others flocked to play music. It marks a kind of cultural heritage of that time unlike others.
That work remained in archives until The Jazz Loft Project:
From 1957 to 1965 legendary photographer W. Eugene Smith made approximately 4,000 hours of recordings on 1,741 reel-to-reel tapes and nearly 40,000 photographs in a loft building in Manhattan’s wholesale flower district where major jazz musicians of the day gathered and played their music. Smith’s work has remained in archives until now. The Jazz Loft Project is dedicated to uncovering the stories behind this legendary moment in American cultural history.
From this moment in 2009, in which everything anyone thinks or says is twittered or blogged or in some way used, it is revealing to go back 50 years and listen, closely, to something that was never intended to be used in any way. Because of that, it sounds different. The music is less structured, less self-conscious, more exploratory. The conversation is uninhibited, frank and sometimes just plain boring. The creaky steps and squeaky door of the building people describe as ‘smelly’ add to the profile of a place that was simply not ‘for show’ in any way whatsoever.
The archives are staggering. Experience for yourself what spontaneity looks and sounds like.