The loft jazz scene was a cultural phenomenon that occurred in New York City during the mid-1970s, at venues such as Environ, Ali's Alley, and Studio Rivbea, all in former industrial loft spaces in NYC's SOHO district. Hence, "Loft Jazz".
Many of the musicians featured were from Chicago and particularly the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and St. Louis' Black Artists Group (BAG). These included notables such as: The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Dave Holland, Rashied Ali, Charles Tyler, Perry Robinson, John Fischer, Jeanne Lee, Oliver Lake, Joseph Bowie, Keshavan Maslak, Hamiett Bluiett, Chico Freeman, Olu Dara, George Lewis, Air, the Revolutionary Ensemble, and Anthony Davis. Others came from Southern California, such as Arthur Blythe and David Murray, and from Texas, like Sam Rivers.
Loft jazz was a continuation of the free jazz and avant-garde jazz traditions inaugurated by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, and Sun Ra. However, it didn't follow any one particular style or idiom of jazz. Few loft jazz musicians played continuously atonal or arhythmic music in the style of Coltrane's legendary albums Ascension and Om. They often combined conventional melodic elements with free jazz; used instruments less familiar to jazz, such as the bass saxophone, oboe and cello; and combined instruments in nontraditional formats, like the World Saxophone Quartet, whose changing members used a variety of saxophones and flutes, usually without any rhythm section.
A series of five LPs was released on Casablanca Records in 1976, documenting different sessions of Sam Rivers-hosted loft sessions. Portions of the sessions have been reissued variously on Alan Douglas Music and Knitting Factory Records.
- Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions - Complete Knitting Factory 3037 (2000 reissue)
- Cherches, Peter. Downtown Music, 1971-1987: An Overview and Resource Guide, 2007.
- Koenig, Steve. Rashied Ali's Survival Records, Perfect Sound Forever, 2001.
- Loft jazz, everything2.com, 2000.