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Jazz Lazarus Giuseppi Logan's Park Playing Attracts Attention

 

New York based artist Suzannah Troy had never heard of multi-reedist/composer Giuseppi Logan when she stumbled upon him playing his horn in Tompkins Square Park in the City's East Village. She was unfamiliar with the two albums he put out on the ESP label in the 1960's, or his mysterious disappearance from the jazz world shortly thereafter. She did not know that many of Logan's Internet bio's still stated: "...it is believed (but has not been confirmed) that he passed away in the early 1990's." She was captivated by his playing, and compelled to make a short film of him with her phone, which she later posted on You Tube. "There was such passion, I just loved him instantly." she said. At the time there had been other Logan sightings posted on the web, but Suzannah's video of a homeless Giuseppi Logan playing "Begin the Beguine" on the saxophone in Tompkins Square Park, filmed in December of 2008, is the most poignant. "I lived here," he told Suzannah, "This was my neighborhood."

It was a neighborhood Logan was to reclaim during the following year. Playing the saxophone in the park in New York City might not seem to be the best strategy for an artistic comeback, but it hasn't worked out all that bad for Giuseppi Logan. The onetime rising star at ESP records has garnered quite a bit of attention through his Tompkins Square Park improvisations. It is through playing in the park that Logan has made connections with individuals such as Suzannah Troy, record producer Josh Rosenthal , filmmaker David Gutierrez Camps , and fashion mogul Greg Armas. Connections that have given Giuseppi Logan the opportunity to stage one of the most improbable jazz comebacks ever, triumphing over homelessness, rumors of his own death, and a nearly forty year absence from the jazz scene.

It was through his a capella park explorations that Logan garnered an appearance in, and scoring credits for a short film. Spanish filmmaker David Gutierrez Camps was in NYC filming Water in the Boat, which Camps calls, "...a film about loneliness and aging, an elegy about the East Village..." Camps stumbled upon Giuseppi Logan. "I found him by chance." Camps said of their first meeting, " I was walking around Tompkins Square Park thinking about my film when I heard the sound of a raw saxophone coming from somewhere. I approached the person playing and it happened to be Giuseppi. I sat down with him, shared a couple of cigarettes and heard him play. There was something about that sound and that face that fit really well with my film...He told me who he was (I didn't know his work before) and I ran home, bought some of his songs and researched about him. I was amazed by his story. In the following weeks, I saw him a few times in Tompkins Square Park and spent some time with him." Camps decided to he wanted to use Logan and his music in the film, but when it came time to record, Logan's elusive nature almost spoiled the deal, Camps said, "When I decided I wanted to record him and use his music, it was rather impossible to find him. He would disappear, not answer my call. I had to wait two months and feel completely hopeless when he returned my call. We arranged a couple of meetings to record him while playing in the street and it finally worked." Since its release Water in the Boat has been screened as an official selection as part of both the CMJ Film Festival and the New Filmmakers Film Series.

It also was through his playing in the park that Giuseppi earned his most offbeat opportunity in recent times when Assembly New York owner Greg Armas, who lives on the park, was drawn to use Logan as a model for a clothing line from his store. "Giuseppi plays his horn everyday in Tompkins Square Park next to my house," Armas said, "I can hear him out my window most days. It was a short matter of time till I walked past him on my way for coffee and was taken by his demeanor. He was childlike but so "cool" in a New York sort of way that doesn't exist as much anymore. Then I found out he was the real McCoy." Armas tapped photographer Margo Ducharme to do a photo shoot of Logan. She was impressed with Logan's easy manner. "I had met Giuseppi before the day we shot as he sometimes played the piano in Greg's shop, and was often not far down the street...in fact, some days his horn can be heard drifting in the window. Giuseppi has a very smooth way with things. He lets things roll along with a casual pleasant demeanor; and he also politely let's you know when he's ready to roll in another direction. He was very agreeable to our basic requests with regards to the shoot, and didn't require much direction. We wanted to capture Giuseppi as himself within the garments. And the clothes looked great on him." The final portfolio from the photo shoot with Logan was used to create both a "lookbook" and a "mood piece", which, Ducharme says, are: " ...tools used to introduce a clothing collection to buyers and media."

It was also through a connection in the park that Logan's latest and most ambitious endeavor, a full length album featuring six new compositions, was generated. Josh Rosenthal, who's Tompkins Square record label is located very close to the park, had become interested Logan's music. "I had never heard of him." Rosenthal said, "Last year, someone sent me a You Tube link of a guy walking around in Tompkins Square Park in 1966. I live on the park, my label is called Tompkins Square, and I feel like Tompkins Square Park is a magical place with tons of history. So to see film of the park around that time was so neat. Then I forwarded the link to my girlfriend. She said, "Oh yeah, that's Giuseppi. He plays in front of the playground." Then I did my research online, talked to him in the park, and decided to record him." The album looks to be a landmark for Giuseppi Logan. Rosenthal brought together an all star quintet for the recording, featuring Dave Burrell, Warren Smith , Francois Grillot and longtime Logan supporter Matt Lavelle. In the short time since its release Giuseppi Logan's new album, simply titled The Giuseppi Logan Quintet, has garnered rave reviews, including one from Allmusic.com.

A film score and appearance, an album, and even a modeling job. Not bad for a man who makes all his connections through playing in the park, and has no presence of his own on the Internet. Giuseppi Logan's improbable comeback, no doubt, has quite a bit to do with his talent as a musician, and not a little to do with his previous success as a recording artist, but it is also a lesson about the merits of kicking it old school for those who think that in today's music business a website, blog, and presence on Facebook and Twitter are indispensable accoutrements of success.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Giuseppi Logan
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