Ted Daniel, Milford Graves, Frank Lowe, Juma Sultan, Noah Howard, James DuBoise, unknown, Sam Rivers, and Ali Abuwi outside Studio We, 1973.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, with New York City’s socioeconomic scaffolding rickety and near collapse, abandoned industrial spaces in Lower Manhattan were buttressed by artists. Painters, appropriators, and sculptors converted nineteenth-century sweatshops into studios, and dance-happy DJs turned these same buildings into the first cathedrals of disco.
One of the most fecund, though least documented, scenes was chiseled out by jazz musicians, most young, black, and with eclectic leanings. These post-Coltrane free players, and free thinkers — shunned by a mainstream in the midst of commodifying the “counterculture” — lived, rehearsed, and performed in these loft spaces, usually in or around Soho.
The movement, and the music, became known as “loft jazz,” an iffy if not outright divisive term. Was it a style? A genre? An ideology? An attitude? Many of the musicians found the phrase confining, despite the high ceilings, while others saw possibility. (Ah, low rents as creative enabler!)