This article will appear in the November issue of JazzTimes.
In the 1970s, New York City teetered on the edge of bankruptcy and collapse. Crime was rampant, drugs and prostitution ravaged the streets, and piles of garbage lined the sidewalks. But even as the city descended into crisis, downtown Manhattan, specifically the desolate then-industrial section known as SoHo (South of Houston Street), served as the epicenter of a creative music boom like no other. It was there that the movement known as loft jazz took shape. Inside sprawling, underused, and dirt-cheap live-in/work spaces, forward-thinking musicians steeped in the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos found their community-minded sanctuary. From Sam Rivers’ Studio Rivbea and (Rashied) Ali’s Alley to Chris and Danny Brubeck’s Environ, loft jazz’s chief hubs are now the stuff of legend, immortalized in books like Michael C. Heller’s recent exhaustive study, Loft Jazz: Improvising New York in the 1970s.