Summer 1963

by Sam Stephenson

W. Eugene Smith and drummer Tommy Wayburn are discussing topics ranging from Wayburn's translations of Russian technical journals to the saxophone playing of Lee Konitz to the importance of Smith's loft recordings, the latter of which leads them to a discussion of obscure loft saxophonist Freddy Greenwell:

WAYBURN:  Freddy is really something, man.

SMITH:  One of Freddy's best nights is the night he was squeaking like mad. He couldn't stop the squeaks. But, really great. Hall (Overton) on piano and two guys from Ornette's band. What're their names?

WAYBURN:  Rhythm players?

SMITH:  No, no, horns.

WAYBURN:  Don Cherry.

SMITH:  Yeah, Don Cherry, yeah, yeah, yeah. And I forget who the hell else was on drums, some guy I don't know. He was good. Hall liked him very much.

WAYBURN:  Ed Blackwell or Billy Higgins?

SMITH:  I can't seem to think of the name.

WAYBURN:  And you got these recorded? I mean, that's a treasure, you know.

SMITH:  Well, yeah, Hall's been having some of his sessions every Saturday night. Hall had, well, last Saturday, he had Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk ….


SMITH:  Well, yeah, he'd have them up here, and Zoot (Sims) and Al Cohn, too. But I'm sorry I didn't get that photographically and on tape. But I didn't have a chance.

WAYBURN:  Those guys will be recorded for posterity. There's no problem. It's not as though they're going to be lost.

SMITH:  Yeah, but see, no, I've never heard Zoot play like he plays when he gets so loaded that he can't sit up straight but he's still fully playing. And he's very introspective, very beautiful playing, and I never heard him play like that before.

Excerpted with permission from The Jazz Loft Project:  Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue 1957-1965, by Sam Stephenson, © Knopf 2009.



Sam Stephenson is a writer and instructor at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. He is the author of Dream Street: W. Eugene Smith's Pittsburgh Project and W. Eugene Smith 55. He lives in Chatham County, North Carolina.

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Articles in this Issue

Introduction, from the Editors
Summer 1963, by Sam Stephenson
Jukeboxes, Beer Joints, and the First Willie Nelson Songbook, by Joe Nick Patoski
The Death of a Temptation, by Alix Strauss
Paradise by the Dashboard Light, by Arthur Jones
I Don't Want to Hurt That Man, I Just Want to Kill Him Dead, by Peter Patnaik
John Philip Sousa vs. "Canned Music", by Elijah Wald
Library Privileges, by Andrew Phillips
Lost In Sound, by the Editors