Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2009: Like the American Renaissance of Emerson, Hawthorne, Dickinson, Thoreau, and Melville bursting out of the Massachusetts countryside a hundred years before, the legend of the New York jazz scene in the late 1950s and early '60s, when singular geniuses like Monk, Coltrane, Davis, Mingus, and Evans might be gigging on the same night--sometimes on the same stage--only grows with time. Now, in The Jazz Loft Project, we have a rare and remarkable window into that moment. The project is the fruit of two obsessed men, W. Eugene Smith, the brilliant photographer who shot thousands of pictures and recorded thousands of hours of music and talk at his Midtown apartment and studio, which served as an open-door meeting place and jam session site for hundreds of musicians and artists; and Sam Stephenson, the documentarian who has spent even longer archiving and investigating the riches Smith left behind. Among its many wonders, what their book does best is put the creations of those bebop geniuses in context: giving life to the forgotten players who jammed with the future immortals, revealing the casual crosspollination among artists, musicians, and writers (and between blacks and whites), and reminding us of the world outside the loft, with baseball, UFO stories, and civil rights on the radio and the daily commerce of New York's flower district on the street below. --Tom Nissley
Starred Review. After having a breakdown in the midst of working on a photo-essay on Pittsburgh in 1957, legendary photographer W. Eugene Smith holed up in a loft in New York's Chelsea, in the Tin Pan Alley area. There, over the next several years, he became deeply embroiled in the New York City jazz scene, opening his home as a practice and performance space for some of the great artists of mid-century jazz, including Thelonious Monk, Zoot Sims and many others. Of course, he took pictures—both of musicians and of a window-size view of mid-century New York—and also wired the place for recording, logging hours and hours of tape, capturing the music and the talk around it. These photos and tapes had been thought lost—the stuff of rumor, buried in Smith's archive—until Stephenson dug them out and culled the best, along with transcriptions of material from the tapes, for this landmark book. Smith's stunning use of contrast makes figures like Monk seem dramatic and completely ordinary at the same time. The photos of the city offer a rare glimpse into a neighborhood being itself when it thought no one was watching. This will be an essential book for jazz fans, photography lovers and those interested in the history of New York. (Nov.)
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Amazing book, with photographs, and links to live audio tapes of the time. My father James "Jimmy" Stevenson, at age 70, became like a kid, recalling his time in the Jazz... Read morePublished 21 days ago by jennifer ogne-stevenson
On a strictly photographic level, not one of WGS's best works. However, from a more important historical perspective, this book was an outstanding success. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Bud Uttrachi
Bought this as a gift for a professional photographer who's a jazz fan. It was a hit, full of intriguing information he'd never read before.Published 8 months ago by Etta W.
A truly wonderful book with great facts and photos.At present it sits on my coffee table and I figure I will probably pick it up and look at it every week for the rest of my life... Read morePublished 15 months ago by David
You know how you feel when you discover something that you hereto didn't know existed.This book did it for me, the combination of jazz and photography isn't exactly a new concept. Read morePublished 19 months ago by F. Clark
You can't get much better than photos by W. Eugene Smith. And this book takes you right into the middle of what was going on in the jazz world in New York at that time. Read morePublished 19 months ago by nhopps
The title of this book is misleading: there are NO tapes included although the title SAYS "Photographs and
Tapes". Where are they? Read more
I savored this book on a long oversea flight and was sorry when I finished it. It's a fascinating depiction of Smith and of key personalities in the New York City jazz demimonde,... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Stepper