Archive for Events

Sam Stephenson’s new book, Gene Smith’s Sink, Out August 2017

Sam’s new book, the culmination of twenty years of work, will be published in August by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  More information HERE.  The first event for the book will be a conversation between Sam and Eugene Richards, moderated by Arezoo Moseni, at the New York Public Library on September 19, 2017.  Info about that event and more HERE.

GSS Cover Hi Res

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JLP Based Documentary Film Opens September 23 in NYC



Opening in Theaters and On Demand Platforms in Fall 2016

Theatrical Debut Appears on Friday, September 23 at the Metrograph in New York City

(NEW YORK, NY – September 7, 2016) – FilmBuff announced today that it has licensed worldwide rights to distribute THE JAZZ LOFT ACCORDING TO W. EUGENE SMITH, the first original production from venerable New York media institution and leading podcast producer WNYC Studios.

FilmBuff will release THE JAZZ LOFT ACCORDING TO W. EUGENE SMITH in select theaters – including the Metrograph in New York City – on Friday, September 23, followed by a digital release on all major On Demand platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu, on Friday, October 7. WNYC’s award-winning radio host and producer and Emmy Award-winning film editor Sara Fishko, the director of the film, will be on hand to do a live Q&A after the evening show at the Metrograph.

The film, a follow-up to Fishko’s Jazz Loft Radio Series, as well as author Sam Stephenson’s book, The Jazz Loft Project, brings hundreds of photographs by acclaimed LIFE Magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith to the screen for the first time, as well as some of the 4,000 hours of audio he recorded, The film features commentary by musicians Steve Reich, Carla Bley, Jason Moran, Ronnie Free, and many others on this fascinating chapter in jazz, photography, and New York City history.

In the 1950s, dozens of jazz musicians jammed night after night in a dilapidated New York loft building, not realizing they were all being captured in sound and pictures by Smith, who lived in the loft space next door. Thelonious Monk stopped by to rehearse; drummer Ronnie Free got hooked on hard drugs; Smith began to tape-record his own phone calls; the ‘50s gave way to the ‘60s. In a layering of interviews, vignettes and powerful music, Fishko recreates these stories of the vibrant culture of New York’s mid-century jazz era, resurrecting some of the characters captured in Smith’s evocative photographs.

In tandem with the film’s release, WNYC Studios will make available an updated version of the original award-winning Jazz Loft Radio Series – which takes listeners on a deep-dive into the music, voices, and sound Smith captured on audio tape – as a 10-episode podcast series on, iTunes and other places where podcasts are available.

“Jazz is an integral part of the fabric of New York City culture, so we’re excited to bring THE JAZZ LOFT to audiences in our hometown and beyond,” said FilmBuff’s Jake Hanly. “It’s a fascinating time capsule of an historic moment in our city, and FilmBuff is excited to be partnering with WNYC, a quintessential New York institution, on their first original production.”

“What gets us excited every day is the chance to tell stories that inform while delighting. And we’re always looking for new ways to do that,” said Dean Cappello, Chief Content Officer of WNYC Studios. “THE JAZZ LOFT project started as a radio series that showcased the incredible and unheard Gene Smith recordings. The chance to bring these characters to the screen with FilmBuff in WNYC Studios’ first film feels like the best way to honor these musicians and artists in a way that audiences will love.”

“We’re still not sure exactly what Gene Smith was trying to create in the loft,” said Fishko. “But he did remarkable work there, and his pictures by the tens of thousands and stacks and stacks of audio tape reels tell us things about community, music-making, obsession and art that we couldn’t learn in any other way.”

THE JAZZ LOFT ACCORDING TO W. EUGENE SMITH screened at Cleveland International Film Festival 2016, Full Frame Festival 2016, Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema 2016, International Film Festival Rotterdam 2016, Copenhagen Jazz Film Festival 2016, DOC NYC 2015, and New Orleans Film Festival 2015.

The film was written, produced and directed by Sara Fishko, edited by Jonathan J. Johnson and photographed by Tom Hurwitz, ASC.  Producers include Calvin Skaggs for Lumiere Productions and Sam Stephenson. The deal was negotiated by Jake Hanly of FilmBuff with John Chao of WNYC.

THE JAZZ LOFT ACCORDING TO W. EUGENE SMITH is funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Reva and David Logan Foundation, Oliver Kramer, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts.

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Scenes from Brooklyn Book Festival Event

Two weeks ago today, as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival, the first public reading of Jaymes Jorsling’s play based on The Jazz Loft Project and my forthcoming book, Gene Smith’s Sink, was held at the Invisible Dog Art Center on Bergen Street.  Below, belatedly, are a few pictures from the afternoon’s private reading/rehearsal and the night’s performance, all directed by Christopher McElroen, whose current direction of the first-ever adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday.

Afternoon rehearsal with the cast of the night’s reading


Actor PJ Sosko, who read the role based on Gene Smith, director Chris McElroen, and playwright Jaymes Jorsling discuss lines during a break.

The public reading at Invisible Dog.

-Sam Stephenson

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More Chaos in Brooklyn in September


We’re pleased to announce that another production based on The Jazz Loft Project will be part of the Brooklyn Book Festival on Thursday September 20 at 8pm.  Last year, Chaos Manor, a live multi-media installation at the Invisible Dog Art Center, was a “Bookend” feature of the Festival.  It was directed Christopher McElroen, produced by me and Brigid Hughes of A Public Space, and executed by a team of devoted artists and volunteers, with undying assistance from the remarkable staff of the Invisible Dog.  Paris Review Daily posted a piece on it by Dawn Chan.

Since then, Chaos Manor has evolved.  One new aspect is a more conventional theater production – a play by Jaymes Jorsling, who was a major part of the Chaos Manor workshops all last summer, based on The Jazz Loft Project and Gene Smith’s Sink, my forthcoming book for Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  Jaymes’ play will be directed by Chris McElroen, who is currently directing the first-ever adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

On Thursday September 20 at 8pm at the Invisible Dog, there will be a public reading of Jayme’s script as part of the BBF.

-Sam Stephenson

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Report from San Diego

The JLP opening at the Museum of Photographic Arts was Friday night.  Today’s San Diego Union-Tribune has two nice pieces on the show, HERE and HERE.

Center for Documentary Studies Exhibitions Director, and co-curator of JLP exhibition, Courtney Reid-Eaton, and I attended.  MOPA’s efforts were impressive, drawing a sell-out crowd of 300+ to the opening on Friday night.  In attendance were Smith’s son, Kevin Eugene Smith, and his son, Ryan Smith.  Also there were Carey Rasmus, daughter of Smith’s daughter, Shana Smith Rasmus, and several members of her family.  Drummer Frank Amoss, a resident of Orange County, CA, and former resident of 821 Sixth Avenue, was also there.  Of course, Frank is featured in the Chaos Manor section of the book that involves a harrowing incident involving Sonny Clark.

Many thanks to MOPA Director Deborah Klochko and her staff for pull out all the stops:  Director of Exhibitions and Design, Scott Davis; Assistant Curator, Chantel Paul; Film and Public Programs Manager, Priscilla Parra; Marketing and Communications Manager, Kristine Page; and the rest of MOPA’s impressive personnel.

Here are a few snapshots by Courtney and me.  More to come.

Photo by Courtney Reid-Eaton

Photo by Courtney Reid-Eaton

A scene inside MOPA's gallery

A scene inside MOPA's gallery

Courtney making a point during our gallery talk on Saturday.

Courtney making a point during our gallery talk on Saturday.

Photo by Courtney

Sam signing books, photo by Courtney

Sam giving at a talk Friday.

Sam giving at a talk Friday. Photo by Courtney.

Courtney and I found time to attend a Dodgers-Padres game at the beautiful Petco Park.

Courtney and I found time to attend a Dodgers-Padres game at the beautiful Petco Park on Thursday night.

-Sam Stephenson

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JLP Opens in San Diego Next Week


The JLP exhibition opens next week at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego.  There is a members opening on Friday May 18 and Sam Stephenson will give a public gallery talk on Saturday May 19.  For more information, click HERE.

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Bull City Party

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the excellent work that’s happening right here in the Jazz Loft Project’s administrative home town: Durham, The Bull City. This April, in particular, offers a lot of wonderful documentary work, much of it in kindred spirit to the JLP.

As part of the Bull City Soul Revival, an exhibition called “Soul Souvenirs: Durham’s Musical Memories from the 1960′s and 1970′s” opens tonight, April 19, at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, NC. Follow those links to read more about tonight’s opening event, featuring several veterans of Durham’s soul scene and next Friday’s concert with a similarly powerful lineup (April 27).

Simultaneously, at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, there’s another remarkable exhibition opening: “Full Color Depression: First Kodachrome’s From America’s Heartland.” It’s curated by Bruce Jackson and he’ll be in house to give a talk and sign his new book In This Timeless Time: Living and Dying on Death Row in America (co-authored by Diane Christian and published by the University of North Carolina Press and CDS Books of the Center for Documentary Studies).

(And those are only the events with two miles of each other pertaining to tonight at 7pm. Looking forwards and backwards through this month, there’s more. A reminder for this similarly nearby exhibition opening showed up while I cobbled this entry. Fortunately, it starts at 4pm. )

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival happened here in Durham last weekend. The Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award went to an extraordinary film called Special Flight. This documentary focuses on a Swiss detention center in Frambois, where a group of immigrants live in purgatory after they’ve been denied requests for asylum while they await a (forcible) “Special Flight” away from a country that had become their true home. It shows another sort of “timeless time” or placeless place.

Full Frame also featured a new documentary with a direct tangent to the Jazz Loft Project. Radio Unnameable covered the career of late night NYC DJ Bob Fass, whose shows W. Eugene Smith often recorded. I talked with Fass on the telephone about a year ago and he alluded to a friendship with Smith. It’s not surprise that Smith would gravitate to a kindred-spirited night owl. On Smith’s tapes, there’s one night when Smith was listening to Fass’s radio show, Radio Unnameable. Smith left the recorder running and made his way to the station, onto the airwaves, and back onto his own tape that was being recorded in his loft. Smith went to the radio station for a number of reasons that night. He wanted to bring Fass a Peter LaFarge record that couldn’t be found at WBAI. The record was one of thousands in Smith’s collection and he wanted to support  folk singer Peter LaFarge, who was Fass’s guest that night. And it’s clear on the tape that LaFarge is struggling with whether or not he will sing again,k among other things. Smith had met LaFarge during the singer’s childhood while visiting New Mexico on another project. Fass interviews Smith, who facilitates a live performance by LaFarge, and they all wind up on Smith’s reel-to-reel tape in the Jazz Loft Project collection. I touched on it here.

Where can you find a similar collection of visual arts, spoken word, and musicians these days? Next week, in Durham: The Center for Documentary Studies and The Hinge will launch Professor Diablo’s True Review at the Casbah club on Tuesday, April 24. Then you’ll be able to check out the Bull City Soul Revival on Friday the 27th. This week you’ll have to choose between some great events. Next week you can go to both. There’s a lot more happening in Durham this month. If you can’t attend the events, there is plenty to take in by exploring the website links above. To quote Smith, “I’m saying it very badly.” But the word is out.  So many worthy projects may seem like a rambling list in this blog entry. These events, exhibitions, and books can’t be contained summarily in a blog’s box. They need to be experienced in depth, in real time where they might truly live and breathe.

-Dan Partridge

(At last weekend’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, there was also a documentary about letterpress printing called Kiss the Paper. Head down to Durham’s own letterpress studio,  Horse & Buggy Press for Maji Moto: Dispatches from a Drought to see their shop, new book, beautifully pressed broadsides, and exhibit).

Bull City Party!

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Report from Pinehurst

Yesterday at Sandhills Community College, as part of the Palustris Festival, in Pinehurst, North Carolina, there was a JLP event featuring the Ron Free Trio, with Bob Bowen on bass and Court Stewart on piano.  The event began at 4pm.  We were pitted against UNC-Kansas in NCAA hoops on TV, no small thing in this state, and in one of the capitols of golf we were faced (again, on TV) with Tiger Woods winning Arnold Palmer’s tournament for his first title in two and a half years.  Against the odds, there was a good, engaged turnout.

(It wasn’t lost on us that a Eugene Smith-based event in North Carolina was competing with a basketball game featuring a school from his home state of Kansas.  Of course, another legendary Smith, retired UNC coach Dean E. Smith was also from Kansas).

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of collaborating with the remarkable Ron Free on a number of JLP events.  His trio isn’t always this precise configuration, but I think yesterday’s set was the best I’ve heard from his band.  The Owens Theater at Sandhills was beautiful visually and the acoustics were above normal.  The Trio’s setlist offered an intriguing sequence:

1. When Lights are Low – Benny Carter

2. Off the Top – Jimmy Smith

3. Ceora – Lee Morgan

4. Bob’s Blues – a blues improv based on a composition by bassist Bob Bowen

5. Dolphin Dance – Herbie Hancock

6. An abstract collective improv introduced by Ron Free this way:  “You’ve never heard this before, and neither have we, and you’ll never hear it again.”  It was the pinnacle of the set.

7. Lucky Southern - Keith Jarrett.

This trio should be recorded.  There is a fresh, open nature to their sound that reflects Ron’s connection to the so-called golden age of jazz along with his relentless desire to find new patterns – in life and music, which makes his younger bandmates natural partners.

Ron is recorded on over 100 reels of Eugene Smith’s loft tapes, around 300 hours of sound.  He’s the most ubiquitous presence on the tapes.  As has been oft-reported in the book, the JLP public radio series, and more, his drum work is the secret to many of the loft’s jam sessions.  Unlike many jam session participants, Ron wasn’t in it just for himself.

You can hear the same sensitive inventiveness in Ron’s work today.  Bob Bowen and Court Stewart have internalized the music from the loft era, as indicated by several tunes in their setlist, but they add their own fingerprints to the music.  The trio’s improvs revealed a trust and intimacy these musicians have won and shared over time.  They’ve played together in Virginia, off and on, for several years.  Their music yesterday sounded better than most of the ad hoc loft jam sessions.

Finally, many kudos and thanks to Denise Drum Baker for organizing this event.  As I mentioned in my remarks, the rewards for this kind of work are the people you meet along the way.  Denise is a new example.

Here is a photograph Denise sent me today from yesterday’s soundcheck.  More photos to come soon.

Jazz Loft stage

Court Stewart, piano. Bob Bowen, bass. Ron Free, drums.

-Sam Stephenson

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JLP and Ron Free in Pinehurst, March 25


HERE is a piece about the event from the Fayetteville Observer and there is also a mention by the local bookstore providing books for the event, the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines.

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo open the Palustris Festival with a duo gig on the night of March 22.  Sam wrote about Branford, Joey, and their band for Paris Review Daily back in December.

-JLP Staff

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JLP and Ron Free Trio in Pinehurst, NC


On Sunday March 25 at 4pm, Sam Stephenson will give a presentation on JLP followed by a performance by the Ron Free Trio (Court Stewart, piano, and Bob Bowen, bass) at the Palustris Festival in Pinehurst, NC.  More information can be found by clicking on the event name on the schedule HERE.

There is a piece about JLP and this event in PineStraw magazine.

-JLP Staff

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