Sara Fishko is an Executive Producer and Host at WNYC, specializing in culture.
The Jazz Loft Project Radio Series was created using a remarkable archive of thousands of hours of tape recorded by a great photographer, W. Eugene Smith, in his loft building on Sixth Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets in New York. From that tape, certain sounds and stories emerged that became the focus of the series.
But what has become most fascinating element of this material is the cultural difference that has revealed itself along the way: imagine a world in which playing music was sheer pleasure, without any thought of its destination or outcome; where jamming together was the greatest possible joy for hundreds of musicians who worked until 3 AM in clubs and then – looked for a place to play for a few more hours!
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.
We’re not sure exactly what gave W. Eugene Smith the idea that recording and photographing life in The Jazz Loft would be of any interest, but he was right:
the spontaneous musical moments and intimate conversations he captured on tape tell us things about the post-World War II cultural world of New York that we could never know otherwise.
It is a trip to another world, that happens to be right down the street.
Host/Producer: Sara Fishko
Technical Director: Edward Haber
Consulting Editor: Julie Burstein
Assistants/Associates: Oliver Kramer, Nina Goodby, Noel Black, Alexander Yellen, Laura Mayer
Web Team: Laura Mayer, Valentina Powers, Allison Lichter, Otis Hart, Elizabeth Zagroba
Executive Producer Dean Cappello
For The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke
Project Director: Sam Stephenson
Research Associate: Dan Partridge
Jazz Loft Project Coordinator: Lauren Hart
The Jazz Loft Project Radio Series was supported in part by a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities; and by an award from The National Endowment for the Arts.
Produced by WNYC.