Sara Fishko is an Executive Producer and Host at WNYC, specializing in culture.
This web extra to episode 5, Before the Loft, features extended interview footage from Teddy Charles, Phil Woods, and Bill Crow, part of a tune from episode 5, and a photograph from W. Eugene Smith.
So many of the stories of the people in the Jazz Loft begin the same way: with the musicians arriving in New York after service in World War II. This episode examines the history of the 1940s as it set the scene for the remarkable Postwar period in which jazz (and all the arts) flourished. We hear some of the personal stories of the musicians who eked out a living; nursed a Coke for hours so they could hear their colleagues play on 52nd Street; and grew into professionals whose lives were entwined both in and out of the Loft. Musicians Teddy Charles, Jim Hall, Bill Crow, Dick Katz, Phil Woods, historian Gerald Early, among others.
Photos: © 1957 - 1965, 2009 The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith Audio: Jazz Loft audio clips courtesy Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
When I still lived in Springfield, it was during the war by the way, I used to get on a train and come down to New York with a couple friends, one of who, one or two of whom may have been musicians or wanna-be musicians like myself. And we’d somehow or other heard about Commodore Music Shop, Billy Crystal’s father…(trying to remember name) And we went in there and we’d listen. He was very helpful cause we’d never heard of Dizzy Gillespie or Charlie Parker. He’d said, ‘listen to this.’ And I said, ‘wow what is that!’ Just knock me out right off the bat.
Well I happened to be here and remember these stories. I mean I remember when Bird came riding down 7th Ave. on a white Palomino in a pinstripe suit with yellow tie and a fedora. Parked his horse in front of Charley’s Tavern, came in said hello, had a meatloaf sandwich and a glass of beer, and went out to finish his ride in Central Park ‘cause he liked to ride. He rode off into the sunset and all us kids were there – who was that masked alto player? Whoa! It’s the lone bopper! But I mean can you imagine? Wrong way on 7th Avenue on a white Palomino horse. Nobody’s going to bother Bird. Everybody knew Bird.”
Every job was another lesson. I had to figure it out or get fired.
I was lucky, in Kirkland, Washington there was a little electrical store that sold stoves and refrigerators that had a record section over in the corner. 78s in those days. And there was a record player there where you could listen to things before you bought them, that was the common practice. The Seattle ones had special booths where you could listen in privacy. But, for some reason this little store started stocking small label releases from Signature and Dial and Musicraft and not just the three major labels. And here was all this stuff. I’m discovering Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins’ small groups, you know, the Chocolate Dandies, there was an album that Mary Lou Williams made with a trumpet player named Bill Coleman who had moved to Europe and lived the rest of his life there. I found this in Kirkland. It was like musical education every time more records would come in…I found out about Eddie Miller through records there, and I found out about the Summa Cum Laude band through records there. And when I saw the Commodore record shop and the address in New York, and it had a bunch of people that I liked like Jack Teagarden, people like that, PeeWee Russell. The first trip I made to New York, I went to that address, over on 3rd Avenue and 42nd street I think it was and got a whole bunch of records that weren’t available in Kirkland and carried them carefully home.”