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Various: David X. Young's Jazz Loft

AAJ Staff By

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Fortunately, David X. Young has been able to see the documentation and appreciation of his significant contributions to jazz, even though W. Eugene Smith wasn't as lucky. After "Double Take" magazine printed a ground-breaking article about Young's jazz loft, CNN, "Time" and "CBS Sunday Morning" were quick on the uptake to interview Young and to recall the inspiring music that developed in his home, a barely livable building at 821 Sixth Avenue. The fact of the building's lack of amenities such as working plumbing or electrical wiring stimulated Young through sweat equity to live in a five-story building for $120 a month and to sublet two of the floors to Hall Overton and Dick Cary..

As an artist, Young was able to paint and photograph some of the most legendary jazz musicians of the 1950's. As a jazz enthusiast, Young opened the door to his loft to any musician who needed a place to hang or to practice. Studio fees at Nola Studios were too high. Most other apartment buildings were too close to neighbors to allow for the noisy jamming required of jazz musicians. In a fairly abandoned district of New York City, Young's loft allowed people like Thelonious Monk, Zoot Sims, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans or Miles Davis to take a germ of an idea and to create a work of art from it in Young's home.

All of these sessions in Young's home could have been legend or oral history if ex-"Life" photographer W. Eugene Smith hadn't joined Young in his fostering of the music. Smith encouraged Young to buy a tape recorder that they shared. Smith and Young photographed the goings-on with exceptional shots worthy of Francis Wolff.

And Young painted. Not only did Young paint still-life's and portraits and abstract art, but also he painted the musicians who lived and learned in his jazz loft.

Magnet Media has compiled an extremely valuable package of some of these available materials, "David X. Young's Jazz Loft." A 48-page booklet includes an essay by Howard Mandel to assess the importance of the jazz loft trend that Young started; self-written reminiscences by Young, Bob Brookmeyer, Terry Charles and Bill Crow; a painting of Sonny Rollins in poster form; and a selection of Young's paintings and photographs, including those of Brookmeyer, Lee Konitz, Dave McKenna, Warne Marsh, Jimmy Raney and Zoot Sims.

But it's the music that makes the package so valuable.

As the tape recorder ran, musicians like Sims or Pepper Adams or Don Ellis jammed and developed motifs and approaches that showed up later on records. Featuring 11 tracks of such truly improvisational and un-self-conscious playing, "David X. Young's Jazz Loft" lets us hear, as few other recordings have, the ways that jazz developed behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, due to legal issues, hardly any of Smith's 20,000 photographs are available. Thus, all of the shots in the package are Young's. In addition, Smith owned many of the tapes. As a result, those that we hear in "David X. Young's Jazz Loft" cover mostly the latter part of Young's occupancy there: the years 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1965. Once the other recordings and photographs are made available, they promise to be as indispensible as any that covered jazz in the fifties.

Never before released, Young's recordings represent one of the most important CD packages of the year due to his historical and artistic value.

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