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Gene Smith’s Sink and the Mid-Century Underground Jazz Scene

August 2, 2018 @ 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm

Rough Point

Writer and documentarian Sam Stephenson presents a program based his new book, Gene Smith’s Sink, which tells the story of his twenty years following the footsteps of legendary mid-century photographer Eugene Smith. The book documents Smith’s underground New York City “jazz loft,” which was an afterhours haunt for jazz musicians in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. Frequent visitors to the loft included Thelonious Monk, Zoot Sims, and yes… even Doris Duke.

Located in Manhattan’s Flower District, Eugene Smith’s loft became a late night meeting place for some of the most creative musicians of the mid 20th century, all documented in captivating photographs and audiotapes. Smith recorded the electrifying jam sessions that took place, along with a background collage of cultural snippets off of radio and television – President John F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, the 1960 World Series, Cassius Clay, Dorothy Parker, Norman Mailer – that perfectly capture a culture in transition. Fifty years later, Stephenson has dissected and elaborated on Smith’s unique archive, interviewing more than five hundred people he discovered in Smith’s materials.

About the Presenter
Sam Stephenson is a writer whose book, Gene Smith’s Sink, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2017. He also authored The Jazz Loft Project for Alfred A. Knopf (2009) and Dream Street for W.W. Norton (2001). He has written for The New York Times, The Paris Review, Tin House, the Oxford American, and others. A former fellow of the NEH, two-time ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson prize winner, and Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and UNC–Chapel Hill, he now lives with his family in Bloomington, Indiana.

Doors will open at 5:00; the lecture begins at 5:30. We invite you to visit the special exhibition galleries before the program.

This event is one of many during our 2018 season that celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Newport Restoration Foundation, by looking back at — and sometimes reviving — what Doris Duke and others were up to around the time of its founding.

For more information:


Rough Point
680 Bellevue Ave
Newport, RI 02840 United States
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