Saturday, March 25, 2017

Various Artists - 1977 - Wildflowers: Loft Jazz New York

Wildflowers: Loft Jazz New York 

Wildflowers 1: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions

A1 - Kalaparusha – Jays
        Bass, Electric Bass – Chris White
        Drums – Jumma Santos
        Tenor Saxophone – Kalaparusha (Maurice McIntyre)

A2 - Ken McIntyre – New Times
        Alto Saxophone – Ken McIntyre (Makanda)
        Congas – Andy Vega
        Percussion [Multiple] – Andrei Strobert
        Piano – Richard Harper

A3 - Sunny Murray & The Untouchable Factor – Over The Rainbow
        Alto Saxophone – Byard Lancaster
        Bass – Fred Hopkins
        Drums – Sunny Murray
        Tenor Saxophone – David Murray
        Vibraphone – Khan Jamal

B1 - Sam Rivers – Rainbows
        Bass – Jerome Hunter
        Drums – Jerry Griffin
        Soprano Saxophone – Sam Rivers

B2 - Air – Usu Dance
        Alto Saxophone – Henry Threadgill
        Bass – Fred Hopkins
        Drums, Percussion – Steve McCall

In the mid-1970s, a jazz renaissance blossomed in large New York loft spaces that the musicians had reclaimed from the depressed blocks of the trendy Soho and Noho areas. The Wildflowers sessions, originally released on Douglas on five LPs, captured performances by almost 100 musicians in numerous configurations. The recordings were made over two weekends at the most famed of the lofts, Studio Rivbea, the home and workspace of saxophonist-flutist-composer Sam Rivers and his wife, Beatrice. Rivers orchestrated the lineup, played host to patrons, and performed as well. The sessions featured many figures well-established in New York, including Rivers, drummer Andrew Cyrille, and pianist Randy Weston, but they also attracted players from the seedbed of so much African American aesthetic jazz exploration in the 1960s and '70s, Chicago.

In addition, Rivers invited to town some key players from Philadelphia and New Haven; there were several newcomers to New York, too, including, from out West, a very young David Murray. The music all had immediacy and urgency fitting to the aesthetic task at hand--to consolidate the gains of the free-jazz and New Thing movements of the 1960s. Indeed, many of the players remain key figures today in that project: Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, and Leo Smith among them. In addition to their performances, highlights of the package include Rivers's radiant meandering over his composition "Rainbow"; pianist Weston's impassioned homage to his father; and performances by important, but often under-recognized innovators, including saxophonist Ken McIntyre and pianist Dave Burrell. Here is a seminal document in American music...

Wildflowers 2: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions

A1 - Flight To Sanity – The Need To Smile
         Bass – Benny Wilson
         Congas – Don Moye
         Drums – Harold Smith
         Piano – Sonelius Smith
         Soprano Saxophone – Art Bennett
         Tenor Saxophone – Byard Lancaster
         Trumpet – Olu Dara

A2 - Ken McIntyre – Naomi
         Congas, Percussion – Andy Vega
         Flute – Ken McIntyre
         Percussion [Multiple] – Andrei Strobert
         Piano – Richard Harper

B1 - Anthony Braxton – 73°-S Kelvin
         Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Contrabass Saxophone – Anthony Braxton
         Bass – Fred Hopkins
         Drums – Barry Altschul
         Guitar – Michael Jackson
         Piano – Anthony Davis
         Percussion – Phillip Wilson
         Trombone – George Lewis

B2 - Marion Brown – And Then They Danced
         Alto Saxophone – Marion Brown
         Bass – Jack Greg
         Congas – Jumma Santos

B3 - Leo Smith & The New Delta Ahkri – Locomotif N°6
         Alto Saxophone – Oliver Lake
         Bass – Wes Brown
         Drums – Paul Maddox, Stanley Crouch
         Piano – Anthony Davis
         Trumpet – Leo Smith

A1. Due to technical live recording problems, the beginning of "The Need To Smile" was not properly recorded. The producers felt the performance strong enough to include it with a logical beginning at the soprano saxophone solo.
B1. "73°-S Kelvin" is an excerpt of a continuous performance.
B2. "And Then They Danced" is presented here in its entirety. It fades rather than ends with applause because it was part of a continuous set where one composition followed into the next.

... Free jazz being almost synonym of Jazz during short period of late 60s-early 70s disappeared from American jazz scenes blown away by fusion.Yesterday stars trying to survive changed their music to more accessible (as Archie Shepp)or moved to Europe where free jazz stayed alive founding its niche in small clubs for years.In late 70s though American free jazz experienced some renaissance in a form of so called "loft jazz scene" - avant-garde jazz musicians activities based around New York Soho district former industrial lofts, refurbished to musicians studios. One of central such studio was Sam Rivers Studio Rivbea. Lot of concerts took a place there and some cult albums were recorded as well...

The second volume in this seminal series from the mid 70s – one that did a great job of documenting some of the formative underground playing that was happening in the New York loft scene, almost more creative work than in previous generations, thanks to a lack of commercial venues, and hence, commercial constraints on the music. Tracks include "And Then They Danced" by Marion Brown, "Locomotif" by Leo Smith, "Naomi" by Ken McIntyre, and "The Need To Smile" by a group with Byard Lancaster, Sonelius Smith, Don Moye, and Olu Dara.

Wildflowers 3: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions

A1 - Randy Weston – Portrait Of Frank Edward Weston
         Bass – Alex Blake
         Congas – Azzedin Weston
         Piano, Written-By – Randy Weston

A2 - Michael Jackson – Clarity
         Acoustic Guitar, Written-By – Michael Jackson
         Bass – Fred Hopkins
         Drums – Phillip Wilson
         Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Oliver Lake

A3 - Dave Burrell – Black Robert
         Bass – Stafford James
         Drums – Harold White
         Piano, Written-By – Dave Burrell

B1 - Abdullah – Blue Phase
         Double Bass – Rickie Evans
         Drums – Rashied Sinan
         Electric Bass – Leroy Seals
         Guitar – Mashujaa
         Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Charles Bracken
         Trumpet, Written-By – Ahmed Abdullah

B2 - Andrew Cyrille & Maono – Short Short
         Bass – Lyle Atkinson
         Drums, Written-By – Andrew Cyrille  (Rights Society: ASCAP)
         Tenor Saxophone – David Ware
         Trumpet – Ted Daniel

...The jazz of the 1970s, particularly in New York, was a vital and searching music, just as the best jazz has always been. Musicians like Sam Rivers, David Murray, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the World Saxophone Quartet, Cecil Taylor and many others worked tirelessly, expanding their tonal vocabularies and creating shimmering and brilliant soundscapes for whoever was still listening. The audiences were, indeed, smaller. But the scope of the artistic achievement was as grand as ever.

This is an astonishing document, sonically wide-open to anyone with an ear for music of the spirit. The performances are varied enough, and sequenced in such a manner, that the most palatable, groove-oriented works will draw the listener in that he or she may appreciate the more abstract, experimental works as well. This music’s vitality is timeless; these recordings should be heard by anyone with anything more than a glancing interest in jazz...

Wildflowers 4: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions

A1 - Hamiet Bluiett – Tranquil Beauty
         Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet – Hamiet Bluiett
         Bass – Juney Booth
         Drums – Charles Bobo Shaw, Don Moye
         Guitar – Billy Patterson, Butch Campbell
         Trumpet – Olu Dara

A2 - Julius Hemphill – Pensive
         Alto Saxophone – Julius Hemphill
         Cello – Abdul Wadud
         Drums – Phillip Wilson
         Guitar – Bern Nix
         Percussion – Don Moye

B1 - Jimmy Lyons – Push Pull
         Alto Saxophone – Jimmy Lyons
         Bass – Hayes Burnett
         Bassoon – Karen Borca
         Drums – Henry Maxwell Letcher

B2 - Oliver Lake – Zaki
         Alto Saxophone – Oliver Lake
         Bass – Fred Hopkins
         Drums – Phillip Wilson
         Electric Guitar – Michael Jackson

B3 - David Murray – Shout Song
         Bass – Fred Hopkins
         Drums – Stanley Crouch
         Tenor Saxophone – David Murray
         Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Olu Dara

...The common critical consensus is that the 1970s, particularly the latter half of the decade, were the historical low point for jazz in America. Very few albums survive from that era, compared with the avalanches of reissues and vault clearing box-sets of 1950s and 60s groups. Part of this is, of course, due to the short shrift granted the avant-garde by most jazz historians. The music of the so-called "New Thing," which by rote doctrine had burned itself out by 1968, in fact continued throughout the 1970s, expanding to Europe in search of audiences and growing and evolving artistically to astonishing levels of power and beauty...

The 5-LPs set Wildflowers documents one small part of this forgotten music scene. Recorded over ten days in May 1976 at Sam Rivers’s Studio RivBea, this set contains an overwhelming amount of truly beautiful jazz performances, by names recognizable to almost anyone with a serious interest in the music. Saxophonists include Sam Rivers, David Murray, David S. Ware, Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, Byard Lancaster, Oliver Lake, Jimmy Lyons, Julius Hemphill and Henry Threadgill. Drummers include Sunny Murray, Don Moye, Steve McCall, Andrew Cyrille, and Stanley Crouch. Bassist Fred Hopkins is practically omnipresent here...

Wildflowers 5: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions 

A - Sunny Murray & The Untouchable Factor – Something's Cookin'
       Alto Saxophone, Flute – Byard Lancaster
       Bass – Fred Hopkins
       Drums – Sunny Murray
       Tenor Saxophone – David Murray
       Vibraphone – Khan Jamal

B - Roscoe Mitchell – Chant
       Alto Saxophone – Roscoe Mitchell
       Drums – Don Moye
       Percussion, Drums, Saw – Jerome Cooper

...Probably most representative document of loft jazz era was this five vinyl set "Wildflowers", recorded during May 1976 at Rivbea Studio and released on tiny Douglas Records in 1977. Decades after this release received almost cult status. Each of five albums contains collection of compositions recorded by different artists...

And in the end always comes delicacy, long mantra Roscoe Mitchell's "Chant" (an exercise in marathon circular breathing that walks the line between exhilarating and fantastic)—but at the same time houses a couple of the collection's most outstanding selections.
The other highlight of the fifth vinyl, is the return of Sunny Murray and the Untouchable Factor for the 17-minute "Something's Cookin'". Beginning as a fragile web supported by Murray's cymbal whispers, the mood expands through the otherworldly plateaus spun by Jamal's vibes and a kinetic tenor/alto dialogue between Murray and Lancaster—only to finish on the spiritual edge where Hopkins' bowed levitations meet Lancaster's primordial flute... oh yes...

No self-respecting listener of free jazz should go without hearing these sessions, as they document a period in the music's history that, until now, has been severely neglected.

But, and this is very important:
The psychedelic colors of the record cover jumped out to me immediately. I loved the album art - a collage of jazz greats fronting a backdrop of New York City. It was so different...

If you find it, buy this album!

Engineer - Ron St-Germain
Mastered By - Ray Janos
Producer - Alan Douglas , Michael Cuscuna , Sam Rivers

Recorded may 14-23, 1976 at studio rivbea, 24 bond street, New York.

Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions Complete

By Derek Taylor

The decade of the 1970s was a turbulent time for jazz music though the uncertainty that accompanied its passage is sometimes underplayed. The revolutionary fervor for political and musical freedom which mapped much of the jazz discourse of the 60s had in many circles subsided and been supplanted by an indecision on the part of creative musicians as to where to go next. In addition, Rock music had risen to the unsurpassable position of popularity that it still maintains today and along the way it left an indelible stamp on Jazz with the arrival of Fusion. The jazz mainstream was for the most part on the commercial outs and the marketability of the music as a whole took a heavy blow with Rock?s meteoric ascendancy. Creative fires where still burning, but now along a stratified continuum that created the illusion of polarized camps, that of free jazz and Fusion.

One of the most galvanizing and important movements birthed in the 60s to successfully bridge the decade gap was the New York Loft jazz scene. Musicians and organizers operating out of the myriad of loft spaces that dotted Manhattan put the ideals of artistic independence that had been the credo of a collective consciousness during the previous decade into practice and turned their attentions inward to their own communities. In the process they created an intensely supportive environment for their craft that communicated and sustained their art through the tough times ahead. The lofts weren?t just musical venues. They quickly became vital community centers and grass roots activist enclaves as well. Musicians, dancers, visual artists and a constantly diversifying and fluctuating audience all shared in the fruits of their unifying vision.

The Wildflowers series, originally released on the Douglas label in the 1970s, is widely regarded as the seminal document of the teeming microcosm of creative energy that was a daily harvest of the lofts and it has been out of print virtually since it?s initial release. Long considered by collectors as one of the most valuable finds in the free jazz cosmology the set has finally returned to widespread circulation through Knit Classics, the new Knitting Factory reissue imprint. Virtually everything about this set from its historical significance to the stunning collection of performances it contains ensures its place as one of the most valuable reissues of the year. One glance at the lineups of many of these groups should set many creative music fans? mouths to watering.

The five original albums have been transferred onto three generously packed discs and each of the 22 tracks is carefully annotated in the accompanying liner booklet. Also included is an insightful and illuminating essay by New York-based jazz journalist Howard Mandel, but all of the packaging is in a larger sense peripheral- what matters most is the music. As the outcome of producer Alan Douglas? two-week recording stint at Studio Rivbea (a co-operative space on Bond Street managed by Sam Rivers and his wife Bea) the discs deliver a well-rounded gallery of some of the most renowned players in free jazz and creative improvised music. Throughout the performances musicians who made their mark in the 60s stand alongside their younger protégé, who have in the intervening decades since the set was first spawned become legendary figures themselves. While still others, like guitarist Michael Jackson dropped off the scene entirely. The intergenerational nature of many of the groups points again to the strong sense of community essential to the music.

One of the most unexpected aspects of the performances is the Fusion influence on several of the groups? instrumentation and sound. Electric bass and amplified guitars (and even the stray synthesizer, on Braxton?s ?73° Kelvin?) regularly crop up in the ensembles. Kalaparusha McIntyre?s turgid tenor solos atop a funky vamp supplied by supple electric bass and subtle backbeat traps on the set opening ?Jays.? Ken McInytre?s ?New Times? starts with the portentous creak of an opening door followed by opening salvos from the ensemble instruments and a rising collective theme. Rivers? own ?Rainbows? is a tour de force for his Bedouin soprano supported by the bustling rhythms of Hunter and Griffin. Hopkins heavily amplified double bass holds the anchor on Threadgill?s ?USO Dance? cleaving off thick slabs of viscous rhythmic energy before the saxophonist?s slightly off mike entrance. These sonic imperfections are rare, but even when they surface they add further to the feeling of being there in the moment when these sounds were first created. Marion Brown?s ?And Then They Danced? is another saxophone spectacle guaranteed to cause jaws to drop. Brown takes the track almost completely solo save a short closing refrain by bowed bass and conga and explores the melodic possibilities of his alto in all registers.

Discs two and three contain an equal number of memorable moments. From the unexpected appearance of Randy Weston backed by his son (?) Azzedin?s percolating conga rhythms on the beautifully conceived ?Portrait of Frank Edward Weston,? which with the tune?s title brings three generations of Westons into the musical melange. To the Ahmed Abdullah?s guitar-driven jam ?Blue Phase that sounds constantly on the verge of exploding in a confetti of African-infused voices. To the brief, but beautiful contribution from Jimmy Lyons? quartet featuring his wife Karen Borca on unwieldy bassoon, an instrument that becomes a genuine jazz voice in her capable hands. These are all offerings to treasure and return to time and again. There are a fair share of ecstatic energy blowouts like Oliver Lake?s ?Zaki,? but also an equal number of groove-driven numbers that dip judiciously into the peripheral styles of funk, soul and even on occasion give a nod to the so-called specter of Rock. Taking the ?field recording? esthetic to heart there are a handful of tracks that aren?t completely successful musically, but interesting experiments nonetheless. Mitchell?s ?Chant? a piece that stretches on for nearly a half hour and includes an opening section where the saxophonist retreads a tightly scripted figure on alto, before moving into more expansive blowing toward the close is one such example. All of the tracks offer something special and significant and the wealth inherent in this set cannot be overstated. On a myriad of levels it is a capsule of a time now past, but with strong and invaluable ties to the present and future and anyone with an interest in creative music should make it a point to check it out.