Outpost, New Mexico

Saturday night we had a wonderful JLP event at Tom Guralnick’s superb Outpost venue in Albuquerque as part of the New Mexico Jazz Festival.  It may have been the best JLP event I’ve done in terms of curiosity and engagement from the audience, roughly fifty people.  After my 70 minute presentation the Q&A lasted more than an hour and it felt like it could have gone longer.

Then today we had standing room only at the Verve Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe, eighty people or so, also part of Tom’s festival.  Q&A lasted an hour again.  Making it more special, early during my talk the door opened and former Smith assistant Leslie Teicholz walked in with her husband Bob.  I didn’t know they had a place out here.  They spend most of their time in the Berkshires which is where I’ve interviewed Leslie in the past.  She originally met Smith at the Woodstock festival and she is also a good friend of Smith’s second wife Aileen Mioko Smith.  In the JLP exhibition there is 16mm film footage shot in the loft by David X. Young in which both Leslie and Aileen are seen working with Smith on the 1971 Jewish Museum exhibition.  It was a tremendous surprise to see her.

After the event Leslie and I had a long, thoughtful chat about my challenge with the Smith biography.  I don’t want it to be a sordid, depressing tale.  I want to tell an interesting story, to find some elements of redemption, without it being inaccurate.  It’s easy to make JLP entertaining because there are so many intriguing elements outside of Smith, which might be what makes it his greatest documentary achievement.  It’ll be harder focusing on the man for 150,000 words or so.

I left Verve Gallery and walked a few blocks over to Evangelo’s Bar, owned by Nikos Klonis, who is apparently the son of the WWII soldier, Angelo S. Klonis, pictured in one of Smith’s most famous combat photos from Saipan.  See below.  I made this photo in the bar with my iPhone.  According to Nikos there is some controversy related to this image that I want to explore in more depth.  I’ll write more about this in the future.  What interests me about this controversy is not that this man isn’t Nikos’ father – I think he is.  I just want to make sure these negatives are Smith’s.  Despite his fever, he wasn’t a meticulous cataloger of his work.  In jazz, there are mix-ups like this quite often, sometimes the mix-up is innocent, sometimes not.  Did Sonny Clark write that tune or did he hear Monk play a premature version in private at the Baroness’s apartment?  Did he “steal” it or did he and Monk play it together so often – morphing it back and forth – that Sonny came to believe it was his?


Back to Santa Fe, I finished the day by heading to the 1931 theater, The Lensic, and checking out Bitches Brew Revisited, an interesting ensemble led by Graham Haynes and featuring rock-jazz musicians Vernon Reid and Cindy Blackman and DJ Logic.  I thought two or three of the tunes they played really took off.

It’s been a great trip.  It’s clear that Tom Guralnick has had something special going on here for many years.  You can tell it from him, his staff, and from his large cadre of loyal and eager volunteers.  Everything they do speaks to how much they care about the content and their guests.  Absolutely first rate.  I wish I could attend the rest of the festival this week.  They’ve got A.B. Spellman, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Miguel Zenon here.

-Sam Stephenson


  1. Tom Guralnick Said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

    Thanks so much Sam. the feeling is mutual. Was great to host you and your fascinating project. Some folks were MOST excited about your presentation over anything else in the festival. We were so glad on so many levels to be able to include it as a festival event. Good luck with your research and work.

  2. Mel Minter Said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

    I was one of those folks who was more excited about the JLP presentation than anything else, and I was not disappointed. What an astonishing wealth of information. I applaud your scholarship and perseverance. I am sorry only that we could not go on for several more days.