The Jazz Loft Project Records include administrative documents, audio and video recordings, and collected research associated with key participants and events in the history of the Jazz Loft building, located at 821 Sixth Avenue in New York City. The collection includes significant documentation of the jazz music scene in New York from 1955-1971, and the life and work of photographer W. Eugene Smith, composer Hall F. Overton, and jazz musician Thelonious Monk. Also of note are materials that document the collection of oral histories, the design and implementation of exhibitions, and conservation reports on audio recordings all related to the Jazz Loft Project. Items in the collection range from 1950 to 2012, with the bulk being created between 2002 and 2009.
A majority of materials in this collection consist of the project's financial and logistical documentation, oral history interviews in print, audio, and video formats, audio reel analysis notes, and biographical/historical articles. Examples of these types of documentation include correspondence, book drafts, promotional materials for exhibitions and events, research notes, and interview transcripts.
The collection contains 824 audiovisual items, including microcassettes, audiocassettes, VHS videocassettes, ¼-inch audio reels, DVDs, CDs, mini-DV videocassettes, and digital audio tapes (DAT). The bulk of this media is associated with oral history interviews, events and exhibitions, and research related to the Jazz Loft Project, but there are also items tangentially related to the Project, such as commercial music recordings, recordings of concerts and performances, original recordings of Hall Overton's opera Huck Finn, and published documentary footage related to W. Eugene Smith and other artists.
From 1954 to 1972, the building at 821 6th Avenue, New York, NY functioned as practice space, crash pad, art studio, and social hub for a variety of musicians and artists including noted photographer W. Eugene Smith, painter (and Loft founder) David X. Young, composer/musician Hall Overton, and jazz legend Thelonious Monk. Wiring the "Jazz Loft" with microphones and recorders, and taking tens of thousands of photographs during his tenure in the Loft (1957-1971), Smith created a sprawling aural and visual portrait of jazz as it was lived by its creators, and of life in Manhattan's Flower District during the middle of the twentieth century. Of note, Smith's microphones captured interactions between Hall Overton and Thelonious Monk, during their collaboration on the compositions Monk's large band would perform for the groundbreaking Town Hall Concert in 1959. Smith recorded and collected thousands of hours worth of material that went unheard for many years.
Author Sam Stephenson found the tapes in the W. Eugene Smith collection at the University of Arizona's Center for Creative Photography, while researching his book Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith's Pittsburgh Project. Stephenson subsequently organized the Jazz Loft Project through the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The goal of the Project was to digitize the Smith recordings, analyze their content, and develop a more comprehensive historical portrait of the Jazz Loft through the collection of oral histories from people affiliated with the building. Leveraging successful grant funding with partnerships with the Center for Creative Photography and WNYC, the Jazz Loft Project became a book, an exhibition, and an informing text for performances of Monk's work and dramatic interpretations of the Loft scene. The oral histories document and discuss a wide range of topics and people, but focus primarily on the lives and work of W. Eugene Smith, Hall Overton, and Thelonious Monk, along with cultural/musical events that took place at the Jazz Loft.
http://www.jazzloftproject.org The Jazz Loft Project Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.