Archive for May, 2010

DLK Collection Review of JLP Exhibition

This is an unusually thoughtful and good review of the exhibition from a couple of days ago, just FYI.

-JLP Staff

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Speakers for the Dead

We became interested in the Potter’s Field on NYC’s Hart Island when we learned that pianist Sonny Clark and other jazz musicians dug graves there while incarcerated in Riker’s Island on drug charges.  We’ve mentioned here before that we were impressed by Melinda Hunt’s relentless efforts to document and pay homage to the people buried there anonymously.  This weekend Hunt is organizing an event, Speakers for the Dead, in which poets will take turns reading the names of the buried dead on Hart Island one after the other.

This event promises to be moving.  It reminds me of a comment by the Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti regarding his 1950′s neo-realist film about a Sicilian fishing village, La Terra Trema (based on a novel by the underrated Giovanni Verga).  Visconti used mostly local, nonprofessional actors to document, in a fictional story, a traditional, rural fishing culture overwhelmed by larger forces of economic brutality .  Visconti, who came from wealth in Northern Italy, once said that a certain poetry was achieved simply by reading the names of citizens from Sicilian fishing villages one after another.  Granted, the Italo languages are beautiful and musical, but Visconti was talking about a documentary poetry of being aware, noticing, caring.  We were influenced by his comment when we decided to include the list of 600 Jazz Loft Project names in the back of the book, in the exhibition, and on our website; icons and anonymous figures with equal regard, more or less.

Here is a New York Daily News article on this week’s Hart Island event.  If Visconti were still around he might think this was important.

- Sam Stephenson

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Diane Arbus in Gene Smith’s Loft

Below is a photograph called “Diane Arbus in Gene Smith’s Loft” by Dave Heath circa 1960.  Several years ago I interviewed Dave in Toronto and he told me Smith taped the conversations that night.  Jazz Loft Project Research Associate and chief archivist Dan Partridge hasn’t heard that tape, yet.  But he’s still got about 900 to 1000 compact discs remaining to be heard.  This is one of the most interesting tape sessions of Smith’s that we’ve been told about but not found in the collection, yet.

diane arbus in gene smith loft jpg

The other exciting tapes we’ve heard about but not found, yet, are with Ornette Coleman playing piano.  We’re told he’d let himself into the loft in the mid-1960s and play the Baldwin baby grand that Gene and Carole Thomas inherited on the 5th floor when Jimmy and Sandy Stevenson moved out.  Carole said Gene recorded a lot of those solo piano sessions.  I asked Ornette about it last year and he replied, “If she said it happened then it probably did.  Let me know if you find those tapes.”  Gene wrote a letter of support for Ornette’s successful late 1960′s Guggenheim Fellowship application (Gene won three Guggenheim awards in his career).

-Sam Stephenson

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