In his new play (A)loft Modulation, playwright James Jorsling brings to life 821 Sixth Avenue as it was during the 1950s and '60s, a time when musicians and others would be up until the wee hours.
Jorsling takes us to a dilapidated five-floor walk-up loft in Manhattan's seedy flower district. It's there where the magic happens. Inspired by true events, (A)loft Modulation is directed by Christopher McElroen with this off-Broadway world premiere featuring a live jazz band led by saxophonist Jonathan Beshay.
Beshay and Jorsling came into the WBGO studios to speak with News Director Doug Doyle about the play being presented by the american vicarious through October 27 in the Mezzanine Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres. Director Christopher McElroen, a big fan of WBGO, also made the trip.
Jorsling admits his love of music, his love of jazz, was just the starting point for (A)loft Modulation.
"I was fortunate enough to befriend an older gentleman in the gym who told me one day hey I use to play the piano for Charlie Parker. He was Valdo Williams. He would tell me all these stories that it was just incredible the creation, to be around John Coltrane, and Miles Davis and Max Roach and all these people. And I think those planted the earliest seeds in my mind about just something about artists and musicians building together. The fast forward to Sam Stephenson wrote a book about a jazz loft, 821 Sixth Avenue, that a photographer Eugene Smith documented and recorded reel-to-reel tapes all day long in this loft. And next door to him was a piano player Hall Overton, who taught classical music by day at Juillard and had jam sessions all night in the loft with the likes Thelonius Monk, Pepper Adams, Zoot Sims, Chick Corea and whole lot of other people."
Using archival video and sound and a talent cast made up of Charlie Hudson III, Spencer Hamp, Kevin Cristaldi, Elisha Lawson, Eric Miller, Buzz Roddy, PJ Sosko, Christina Toth and Julia Watt, director McElroen uses the improvisations of a live band to bring audiences back to those loft days.
Band leader and saxophonist Jonathan Beshay appreciates the freedom he and his players have been given each night.
"It's not like a Broadway musical where there's a book and we're reading it and you can pretty much be expected and counted on to read the exact same music. It's actual improvisition going and none of the performances are the same. With all this energy and stuff going on and I think the band is giving actors energy and the actors are giving us energy, and it's very much like being transported into 60 years ago, which is crazy to think it's that long ago now."
The show also features additional piano composition by Grammy nominee Gerald Clayton.
For more information about (A)loft Modulation you can go to www.americanvicarious.org and click above to hear the entire interview.