Report from Monterey


The Jazz Loft Project was a success at the 53rd annual Monterey Jazz Festival.  Many kudos and deep gratitude are due Tim Jackson, Mary Piazza, and Bill Wagner, among many others.  Mary approached us many months ago about having some kind of JLP exhibition in their Coffee House Gallery over the weekend.  We couldn’t use Smith’s prints for a number of reasons, most obviously because they were on loan to the Chicago Cultural Center as part of the JLP traveling exhibition at this time.  However, after many discussions and emails with Mary, Bill, and Tim we settled on a temporary exhibition of Smith’s audio, some duplicate video that we are using in the traditional exhibition, and projections of Smith’s images.

When I walked into the Coffee House Gallery this weekend I was amazed by what Bill and Mary had done (some iPhone snapshots of mine are above and below).  It was a powerful mini-exhibition, a testament to Bill and Mary’s ingenious and respectful presentation and to the flexibility of Smith’s profound original achievement.  The young lady who served as the security guard for the Coffee House Gallery all weekend told us today that one person walked in there and stayed for two and a half hours.  At least four others came up to me and said they were stunned by the gallery presentation and by the whole story of JLP.  They hadn’t heard about JLP until they saw this gallery show.

Today at 4pm was my JLP presentation on stage in Dizzy’s Den, a 700-seat venue.  I followed Roy Haynes, who was being interviewed live on-stage by a moderator, with audience Q&A.  I caught the last half of his appearance and was moved.  He ranks with Monk, Coltrane, and Zoot Sims in my handful of favorite musicians.  In 2002-03 I spent a lot of time with Roy, a week of gigs at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago and a day-trip with him to his gig at a festival in Saratoga, NY.  I wrote a story on him for Smithsonian magazine in 2003.  It was great to catch up today.  He hasn’t changed a bit.  This man is a marvel of a human being and one monster of a creative artist.  Last night at the festival he had a packed crowd on its feet screaming and shouting in glee.  At eight-five years old, how long can he keep going?

Roughly ninety-five percent of the audience in Dizzy’s Den left when Roy was done.  One of his last stories had been about traveling to San Francisco for gigs with Lester Young in the 1940s.  Can you imagine?  For festival-goers, after that, it’s no more talking; let’s go hear some music.  I had a small audience, but they were dedicated.  Several people kept asking questions, which I enjoyed.  Afterwards a few more people came up to me and said they’d never heard of JLP until they saw the Coffee House Gallery exhibition.  This surprises me.  There are times when I feel my own JLP fatigue.  I know my family probably thinks, by this point, somebody please make it stop.  So when I’m at the Monterey Jazz Festival and there are people in this audience who still haven’t heard of JLP, I’m awakened, refreshed.  I also feel grateful and fortunate.

There’s a reason why the Monterey Jazz Festival is in its 53rd consecutive year.  The operation is impressive.  People care – the staff, the volunteers, the audience, everybody.  The weather doesn’t hurt, either.  Highs of sixty-five degrees.  Back home in North Carolina, the 7-day forecast indicates temperatures will be in the upper nineties again this week.  We are shattering the previous local record for days over ninety degrees in one year.  We also haven’t had any significant rain in two months.

It’s been a tremendous weekend in Monterey.  More photos from the Coffee House Gallery exhibition:




-Sam Stephenson


  1. Andrea Said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

    My husband and I cam to Monterey specifically to hear you speak. We lucked out in hearing Roy Haines as well. We were the quiet few just enjoying listening to you talk about your journey. We missed the exhibit in NYC in May…we were too busy getting married to stop off and see it. It was a real pleasure to get a chance to listen to you and see a portion of the project. Thank you.

  2. admin Said,

    September 22, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

    Andrea, thank you for the kind note, and thanks to you and your husband for coming to the talk. I wish you could have seen the talk with clearer projections. Do you live on the West Coast? The exhibition will be at San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts May-September 2012. Maybe we’ll see you two then.