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Gary Giddins on loft jazz of the 1970s July 2, 2007

Posted by wallofsound in Jazz.

Loft jazz “seemed to spring from the avant guarde of the 1960s while embracing everything that came before it. These musicians interpreting the battle cry of free jazz as the freedom to play anyway they liked; their music was at once innovative and historicist, offering a template for jazz today.

“For me, as a fledgling critic coming along in the genuinely dark days of the early 1970s – when jazz had receded from view – loft jazz was a twelve year circus from about 1974 to 1986. The music was challenging, without being ideological, it merged and fused jazz, pop and free improvisation. Not since the 1950s had so many big bands sprung up; ensembles routinely employed instruments previously unknown in American musical circles except among ethnomusicologists…

“Loft jazz musicians combined swing, funk and roboto rhythms in music of extraordinary range, seasoned with humour, irony, nostalgia, sarcasm and stubborn independence. Drummer Beaver Harris summed it up with the name of his band the 360 Degree Music Experience and a recording ‘From ragtime to no time’. Historicism has a long tradition in jazz, stretching back at least as far as Fletcher Henderson orchestrating a King Oliver solo, but those instances were isolated. The 1960s avant guarde in clearing the slate of preconceived notions paradoxically opened jazz to a more generous involvement with its past.”

Giddins cites Murray’s work with his own bands and the WSQ as exemplars of loft jazz.

From a 30 minute spoken essay with musical extracts broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz File programme in the Shape of Jazz Today series: ‘New York’s ‘loft scene’ of the 1970s’ on Saturday 24 March 2007 17:00-17:30 (Radio 3). There’s a running order online, but the programme or a script has long gone.



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