Thanksgiving in the loft

Yesterday I asked longtime Jazz Loft Project Research Associate and primary tape listener Dan Partridge to mine Smith’s tapes for Thanksgiving material.  Here are a few samples of what he found.  This array of sound is fairly indicative of what you might find on any given sample of loft tapes:

In 1959, Thanksgiving Day was on November 26.  On November 23, Smith recorded a jam session with what sounds like several dozen people in the room.  It’s in the loft space of David X. Young and it sounds like a big party.  Several unnamed women are in the room, presumably girlfriends or wives.  You could imagine them having day jobs like the secretaries on the AMC show Mad Men but these women were probably more like the downtown pot smoker that Don Draper had an affair with in the first season of the show.

Musicians confirmed on this tape include Zoot Sims, Jon Eardley, Dick Scott, Bob Brookmeyer, John Mast, Bill Potts, Bill Takas, and Herb Geller.  The group plays a few standards and as always Zoot sounds like he’s playing a really important gig, passionate and effortless in the unique and infectious Zoot manner.  There is also a lot of talking, room chatter, and laughter.  Joints such as Martin’s Bar, Matty’s Towncrest, Junior’s (which was on ground floor of the Alvin Hotel at Broadway and 52nd Street) are mentioned.

Somebody says, “I’m playing the Macy’s Parade this year.”  We aren’t sure who that person is or what they were playing.

There are numerous recordings made by Smith after Kennedy’s election in November 1960, lots of news reports about the new administration.

On Thanksgiving Day 1960 Smith was in the loft talking with George Orick, an attorney who acted as Smith’s agent and counsel for a brief time.  Smith recorded much of the conversation.  Smith goes on and on, as he was wont to do, about his philosophy of photo editing, making disparaging remarks about LIFE magazine where he had logged a long, legendary career before resigning due to frustration in early 1955.  Orick had wandered into Smith’s chaotic loft world and was trying to help him.  Smith had a way of attracting helpers like this.  There was a series of them.  Most of them would throw up their hands and leave sooner or later, sometimes never talking to Smith again.  In this conversation Orick is trying to help Smith figure out a constructive way in which he could return to LIFE and, thus, regain his former, much-needed salary and benefits.  Orick left Smith less than a year later and he and his wife Emily wrote angry letters to him.

Thanksgiving, 1962, Smith recorded the late night radio talk show hosted by Long John Nebel on WOR.  Nebel announces:  “Tonight’s show is about prominent figures in Jewish history and our guest is Robert St. John, author of the new book, They Came from Everywhere:  Twelve who Helped Mold Modern Israel.”

Happy Thanksgiving (2009) to everyone.

- Sam Stephenson

1 Comment

  1. Michael Seiwert Said,

    November 29, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

    Dear Mr. Stephenson, dear Jazzloft Team,

    I’d just like to express my deepest appreciation for your and your teams work on the Jazzloft Project.

    Thank you so much for uncovering the work of geniuses such as W. Eugene Smith, Hall Overton or Thelonious Monk. Reading your beautiful book or listening to those fantastic radio sessions gives me a deep insight into the working and living of some of the greatest artists.

    It’s very hard for me, as I’m no native speaker, to express my feelings reading those pages, looking at these brilliant pictures or listening to some of the taped sessions but everytime I come back to this it leaves me behind with a big smile on my face :-)

    Thank you for that!