David X. Young

(b Eastham, Massachusetts, February 15, 1930; d New York, May 22, 2001)
Painter, fifth floor loft resident 1954-1960.

 

In 1954, when David X Young, a twenty-three-year-old artist from Boston, first saw 821 Sixth Avenue, it was a dreary mess, but perfect for him. He needed a large, low-rent place in which to paint.

Through his friend Henry Rothman, an artist who ran a frame shop on Twenty Eighth Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, Young found the loft building and moved in along with musicians Hall Overton and Dick Cary and photographer Harold Feinstein. They each paid forty dollars per month to landlord Al Esformes, who had a check cashing business across the street.

“The place was desolate, really awful,” said Young. “The buildings on both sides were vacant. There were mice, rats, and cockroaches all over the place. You had to keep cats around to help fend them off. Conditions were beyond miserable. No plumbing, no heat, no toilet, no electricity, no nothing. My grandfather loaned me three hundred dollars and showed me how to wire and pipe the place.”

As a teenager, Young developed a passion for jazz. He was a regular at Boston jazz clubs like the Savoy and the Hi Hat, and he made friends with many musicians. The improvisational energy of jazz inspired his abstract expressionist paintings. When he moved to New York, Young helped to pay his bills by designing jazz album covers for Prestige Records. He did covers for Jimmy Raney, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Teddy Charles, and Art Farmer. Privy to many recording sessions, Young found himself hanging out with musicians.

“One of the problems they always had,” Young said of the musicians, “was finding places to rehearse where they wouldn’t bother anybody with noise. I went with Bob Brookmeyer and Jimmy Raney to some of their practice sessions at Nola’s studio, where everybody would chip in fifty cents or something for a room. But that wasn’t good. A lot of them didn’t have any money, and there’d be a time limit on the rental. So I thought about my loft. I realized I had the ideal space for these sessions. I checked around and found a good piano for fifty dollars, delivered. Some movers, huge guys, brought the piano over to my loft, hoisted it with ropes up this side of the building, and brought it in through my front window. I got Billy Rubenstein to come over and tune it, and we were in business.”

In 1960 Young moved to another walk-up loft on Canal Street where he remained until 2001 when he died after a long bout with emphysema. His artwork – thousands of paintings, films, and photographs – was bequeathed to his daughter Eliza Alys Young, an artist and graphic designer who maintains a website dedicated to her father, www.davidxyoung.com. According to Henry Rothman’s son, David, an acclaimed frame maker who inherited his father’s business, Young’s best oil paintings from the jazz loft period were bought by collectors in Provincetown, Cape Cod. 

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David X. Young

Additional Information

A website on DXY operated by Young's daughter Eliza Alys Young and step-son Gabriel Beaton here.

Eliza and Gabriel need support to save and preserve her father's artworks.  If you can help please contact them via their site or contact Jazz Loft Project staff on this site.  You can also reach them on the DXY Facebook Page.