You’re walking in a big city and, from somewhere nearby, you hear jazz. You see an anonymous doorway and wonder, “What’s going on in there?”

Step inside.

From 1957 to 1965, a rundown walkup building in Manhattan’s Flower District was the unlikely home of a jazz venue like no other. Following a divorce, Kansas-born Life photojournalist W. Eugene Smith sold his large upstate home and moved into the 6th Avenue building. He wired it for sound and pictures and threw it open to modern jazz musicians who were then, as ever, on the lookout for inexpensive (or better, free) spaces to hang out and make music.

The result was extraordinary and, thanks to Smith’s fly-on-the-wall viewpoint, unforgettable. The musicians weren’t aware they were being recorded or photographed. Smith’s thousands of hours of audio and 40,000 photographs were the raw material used to make a remarkable documentary called The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith, directed by Sara Fishko.