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The Jazz Loft According To W. Eugene Smith - Documentary (January 27, 2018)

The Jazz Loft According To W. Eugene Smith

Last night I watched a documentary, fairly recent (2015), that I’d never heard of, about a guy I’d never heard of (so, I’m a heathen), at least by name, but whose photos I’d sure noticed over the years -- the first one in the "comments" below, "The Walk to Paradise Garden," I think EVERYONE has seen at some point, deservedly so, but probably the most uncharacteristicly “sentimental” one he ever took. This film absolutely floored me – “The Jazz Loft According To W. Eugene Smith.”

Smith was one of the greatest photogs that ever lived, and his output was simply staggering, including (but by no means limited to) astounding photos from late in World War II. He served in the military as a photographer for the war, which resulted in countless images unsurpassed by anybody, and a severe injury to his face and head (he insisted on being with the troops on the battlefield and everywhere else).

But this documentary focuses (no pun intended) on the multi-floor NY loft (a decrepit dump in the “flower district”) that he lived in from 1957-1965, personally my favorite era of jazz. It became THE place for musicians to jam around the clock, and he tape-recorded thousands of hours of it (and everything else that was happening), and took 40,000 (!!!) photos.

And what history took place there! Just one example – the full large-band rehearsals for now-legendary Thelonious Monk concerts -- 1959 Town Hall, 1963 Lincoln Center, and 1964 Carnegie Hall -- with composer/arranger Hall Overton, who lived there (!). And Smith photographed AND RECORDED them. I mean, come on! I’ve never seen or heard anything that exposes Monk’s genius at work better than this.

And that’s only one example of the amazing things in the doc, and Smith’s story itself is pretty remarkable – the movie isn’t only about the “jazz loft,” so even if you don't give a hoot or toot about jazz, it is still a riveting ninety minutes. Simply one of the best films I’ve ever seen.

YouTube has a 2 minute preview, <>, and it might be available on whatever platforms you have (it was free for me on Xfinity’s “On Demand”) and worst comes to worst, it only costs a couple of bucks to “rent,” at least from YouTube.

Goosebump stuff.

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