Archive for October, 2011

Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts

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Architectural rendering. Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

Friday at the University of Chicago, Chaos Manor director Chris McElroen, Chaos Manor photographer (and Chicago resident) Kate Joyce, and I spent the afternoon with Bill Michel, founding executive director of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, which will have its Grand Opening next fall.  The director of the University of Chicago’s theater department, Heidi Coleman, joined us after a thorough tour of the building.  The interdisciplinary possibilities for the 180,000-square-foot Logan Center are wonderfully evoked in the design by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.  You can already see that the natural light will be extraordinary inside the building and reflecting off its various exterior services.  It reflects the dynamic instincts of David Logan and his family.

Chris will take residence in Chicago this winter to direct the first-ever adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man, at the University of Chicago’s Court Theater.

Below are a couple of glimpses of our tour, courtesy of Kate:

L-R, Sam Stephenson, Chris McElroen, Bill Michel.

L-R, Sam Stephenson, Chris McElroen, Bill Michel.

L-R, Chris, Bill.

L-R, Chris, Bill.

-Sam Stephenson

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Gene Smith & Great Plains Opera

Recently I made a resurgent plunge into my book-in-progress for FSG, Gene Smith’s Sink.  It’s a biography with, maybe (if I can do it without making the book about me), a bit of my 15-year detective saga intertwined.  The new work has me pondering Smith’s devotion to classical music and opera and all kinds of traditional music.  He had a penchant for appearing at photography conferences and talking for 90 minutes about music (Wagner, Beethoven, Messiaen, Bartok, Monk, Tristano) to frustrated photographers.  Then he’d claim that everything he said pertained to photography.  Was he grandstanding, being his melodramatic self?  Or was there something to it?  Some folks in the audiences were baffled, others inspired.

You can find evidence of many of Smith’s adult characteristics in his childhood and youth in Wichita.  For example, by age sixteen he was driving his mother’s station wagon with the words “W. Eugene Smith, Photographer” painted on the side.  But what about his obsession with music?  How can that be traced to his early years?

With that in mind, this recent blog post by the New Yorker’s outstanding Alex Ross intrigued me.  His quote from a protagonist in a Willa Cather novel is money:

“The world there was the flat world of the ancients; to the east, a cornfield that stretched to daybreak; to the west, a corral that reached to sunset; between, the conquests of peace, dearer bought than those of war.”

My wife Laurie gave me a haunting 7-cd set of Messiaen’s organ music as a gift last week.  We learned about that set from Alex’s blog, too.  I’ll be thinking about that music in two weeks as I’m walking through St. Mary’s Cathedral in Wichita again.  It’ll be my third trip there.  I wrote about my last trip there for Paris Review.

St. Mary's Cathedral. Wichita. April 2011. Photograph by Kate Joyce.

St. Mary's Cathedral. Wichita. April 2011. Photograph by Kate Joyce.

-Sam Stephenson

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JLP Makes Best Seller List

It took two years, but it happened.  In last week’s Salisbury (N.C.) Post the JLP book appeared at #1 on the Best Seller list of the great local indy store, Literary Bookpost.

Okay, okay, it helped that we did an event with the Ron Free Trio that drew 120 people that week, an event put together by an old friend, local attorney Jay Dees.

But, still.  No way this happens at (the dying) chain book stores.  Here’s the complete Best Seller list for the week of 10/23/11 at the Literary Bookpost:

1. The Jazz Loft Project, by Sam Stephenson.

2. Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese.

3. Well, Shut My Mouth!: The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook, by Stephanie Tyson.

4. Aboard LCS 11 in World War II, by Kearney Smith.

5. The Wettest & Wickedest Town, by Karen C. Lilly Bowyer.

6. Death of a Pinehurst Princess, by Steve Bouser.

7. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.

8. A Game Called Salisbury, by Susan Barringer Wells.

9. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

10. The Marriage Plot, by Jeff Eugenides.

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Highway Marker for Thelonious Monk

The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources will unveil and dedicate highway marker E-119: Thelonious Monk 1917-1982 on May 5, 2012.  The text will read:  “Jazz pianist, composer, and architect of bebop.  Wrote ‘Round Midnight’ (1944).  Born 1 mile south.”  It’ll be on NC Hwy 64.

"Around the Y."  Rocky Mount, NC, about 200 yards from Thelonious Monk's birthplace.  Photo by Frank Hunter and Sam Stephenson using Gene Smith's 4x5 Sinar.

"Around the Y." Rocky Mount, NC, about 200 yards from Thelonious Monk's birthplace. Photo by Frank Hunter and Sam Stephenson using Gene Smith's 4x5 Sinar.

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CD of the Week

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A new release from Old Hat Records, Barbecue Any Old Time, which is a compilation of vintage blues and jazz tunes in which barbecue is mentioned or featured.  I grew up on the coast of North Carolina so pork barbecue with vinegar & red pepper sauce is in my blood; the rest is garbage.  So, somebody singing about barbecue in, say, Georgia or Tennessee is somebody singing a falsehood.  But falsehoods are often the subjects of great songs.  This CD is killin’.  It’s not a bad sampler to indicate the relationship of Piedmont Blues and jazz.  New Orleans wasn’t the only place where jazz was welling up a century ago.

-Sam Stephenson

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Chaos Manor Behind the Scenes

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Sam Stephenson and Dorrie Woodson. Photo by Kate Joyce.

Of course, that’s Dorrie Woodson that Sam wrote about for Paris Review.

Saxophonist Levon Henry, Dan Partridge, Sam Stephenson.  Photo by Kate Joyce.

Saxophonist Levon Henry, Dan Partridge, Sam Stephenson. Photo by Kate Joyce.

Levon has worked with the Jazz Loft Project many times in the past.  He and his father Joe Henry were mentioned on the JLP blog HERE.

Chris McElroen, Alex Koch, Julia Watt.

Chris McElroen, Alex Koch, Julia Watt. How are we going to get these 25o pound projectors on top of ten feet of scaffolding? Photo by Kate Joyce.

Hanging Projection Screens at Invisible Dog

Hanging Projection Screens at Invisible Dog

The mega projectors on Bergen St.  Kate Freer, Sam Stephenson in between.

The mega projectors on Bergen St. Kate Freer, Sam Stephenson in between. Photo by Kate Joyce.

The remarkable Chaos Manor media braintrust.  Alex Koch, David Tennent, Kate Freer.  Photo by Kate Joyce.

The remarkable Chaos Manor media braintrust. Alex Koch, David Tennent, Kate Freer. Photo by Kate Joyce.

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JLP in Salisbury, NC

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Due to some technical difficulties, this blog has been quiet lately.  Thus, I’m overdue in praising my old friend Jay Dees and the owner of the Literary Bookpost, Deal Safrit, for throwing an awesome JLP event in Salisbury, NC.  Around 120 people turned out and thirty-some JLP books were sold.  The Ron Free Trio (Royce Campbell guitar, Bob Bowen bass played and sounded fantastic.  Photographer Jan Jenson made photographs at the event, which are here.

Many thanks to Jay and Deal.  What a wonderful town and bookstore.

-S.S.

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JLP Proof

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A friend sent along this notice.

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“The Best Genet”

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Chaos Manor director Chris McElroen was noted by Hilton Als in the Oct. 6 New Yorker for his production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks: A Clown Show while he was running the Classical Theater of Harlem.  Als called it “the best Genet I’ve ever seen in New York.”  You can read the whole write-up HERE if you have a subscription to the New Yorker’s digital offering of their print editions.

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Late Night Sports Radio #10

My new piece on The Morning News manages to squeeze jazz into it.

-S.S.

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