Sara Fishko is an Executive Producer and Host at WNYC, specializing in culture.
Listen to clips from Loft regulars Harry Colomby and Bill Crow, and see photographs from W. Eugene Smith's collection.
We learn how this non-residential neighborhood bustled furiously during the day and emptied out after 6pm, leaving the night wide open for music-making of all kinds without complaint. We hear from people whose businesses were near the Loft, and also from the musicians who came and went. With neighbor David Rothman, Flower shop owners, musicians Crow, Hall, Brookmeyer, Charles, Swallow, 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.
I remember the Flower District and how at night, how empty it was. Man. I could part anywhere. I was very happy about that. Those creaky stairs. And that odor was really special. If I was Proust, I would probably remember things past, I would do a stream of consciousness and I would probably recall it and probably be able to describe it better. But I could pick it out. I could pick it out of an odor lineup. I could pick it…It was special. And it was creaky but it was rich and it was creative. It was creative. The building. But it was so diverse. Piano player, composer – because he also taught. There were a lot of artists hanging around. I remember an artist named David Young. Ah! Remember that name now. Blond, crew haircut. He did some…A lot of artists did jazz covers.
Bob Brookmeyer has always been a very funny and outspoken guy. He has two sides: One is very serious and one is ridiculously funny. We were down there playing with Zoot and a couple other people in the Hall’s section of that loft. And Dave Young came down with a guy we hadn’t met. He says: ‘Hey I just met this alto player, he says he’d like to play with you guys.’ We said: ‘Yeah, come on in.’ So he takes out his alto and sits down on the couch next to Brookmeyer. And we start a tune, and when it comes his time to play, it was our first taste of some of the freeform playing that involves not very pretty sounds on the instruments -- squawks and…just odd, unmelodic playing.And Brookmeyer sat there looking at him through about a chorus and a half, getting more and more outraged and he finally says: ‘Stop that!’ And the kid stops playing and says: ‘Stop what?’ He says: ‘What you’re doing, you know what you’re doing. Stop it!’ The kid packed up his horn, went back upstairs.