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June 1998

Various Artists
Jazz Loft Sessions
Douglas Music

Hopefully this sampling of the fertile '70's New York loft jazz scene is just a teaser for a much needed boxed anthology. Snatching various performances from the highly influential, yet shamefully scarce five-part series, Wildflower Sessions (distributed by disco dynamo Casablanca), this magnificent retrospective gives full testimony that there was indeed a creative wellspring of jazz music that countered the post-Mr. Magic slush that typified the '70s.

Bridging the gap between the '60s high-voltage, New Thing and the '80s frenetic, Downtown Scene, the New York's loft jazz scene provided a bohemian boot-camp for young firespitters like David Murray, Julius Hemphill, Ken McIntyre, Hamiett Bluiett and Byard Lancaster as well as ad hoc laboratories for comparatively established artists like Randy Weston and Anthony Braxton. Recorded in Sam Rivers' makeshift soundlab, Studio Rivea, these sessions include Hamiett Blueitt's blustery, "Tranquil Beauty" and Byard Lancaster's enchanting reading of "Over The Rainbow." Guitarist Michael Jackson's "Clarity" with its brooding lines performed by Oliver Lake and Fred Hopkins, is this set's rare gem. Randy Weston's offers a delectable Monk-inspired, "Portrait of Frank Edward Weston" while Anthony Braxton transports the listeners to the outer edges of jazz spectrum with "73 degrees-S Kelvin."

There is a bold nakedness that separates these performances from conventional studio dates. Sometimes, the bareness reveals too much-David Murray's under-developed, "Shout Song" and Kalaparusha's ill-fated nod to funk on "Jays." But despite minor flaws, Jazz Loft Sessions is essential listening.

Originally published in June 1998
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