Saturday, June 24, 2017


- the Jazz Loft, pt. 12, 1967 -
The 'jazz' loft was not much like 
the 'art' loft - for one thing the 
jazz loft was always dark and 
crowded and usually did stink of 
alcohol pot or sweat and it was 
often airless or stale while by 
contrast an art loft tried to thrive 
on light and spaciousness and if 
it held any odor at all it was the 
odor seemingly of grand oily and
enticing tubs of paint - fresh and 
splattered dried and caked. People 
in an art loft had a complete and 
different view of things, and they 
went about things based on completion 
or work or achievement and values 
based on a tradition of things like color,
perspective, density, and content - and
I'd been to both types lots of times and   
even making it more odd was the fact 
that many times (as in the case of, say,
Larry Rivers) the artist was also the
jazz man with much less of that 
happening the other way around
but, whatever. The overlap is what
made for the interesting groups 
of intermingling people : late night 
jam sessions, dense and thick with 
smoke and booze, sex and fury, and 
the jazz loft was used by choice more
than the art oft for these sorts of
group and music encounter. Groups
of men with their horns and equipment
held long extended and wild jam sessions,
people coming and going. A car or taxi
would bring someone, or just a lot of
these people walked, now far I never 
much knew, nor where they'd been or 
where they were going, they'd shuffle 
in, as hot or hip and on fire as they'd
choose (a lot of it was pure styling, to 
the point of self-conscious put-on, I'd
thought then, and still do), no organized
sitting in any way, haphazard, and rotating 
session men in and out of the group - 
which eventually wound up playing for
hours and hours with shifting alliances and
personnel - and as hard to explain as it was,
it worked. I never exactly had it figured,
not that it mattered, whether or how much
of what they were playing these guys 
actually 'knew' about beforehand or if
they were just winging or hamming through.
Sometimes it as difficult to really tell.
See, the thing I noticed about jazz, or that 
kind of jazz anyway, (by the 70's there'd 
be other colorations, mellow-jazz, cool-jazz, 
table-top jazz, card-jazz, and even stuff
they'd call jazz  when they shouldn't have. 
But that was later, and with a whole 
other raft of people). 
The thing about jazz, this jazz, coffee jazz, 
or whisky jazz, I called it, be-bop, whatever, 
it was a solo language, What good is a
'language' you may ask if it's solo? And 
that's a good question because mostly it 
takes two to talk. That was the situation 
here  -  horn, piano, even a drum run, they'd
all maybe start out separately, like talking 
to themselves, then they'd find a word they 
shared, and then there'd be this quick 
dialogue and someone else's single language 
would want in because it had heard 
something too and, sharing a word or 
phrase, then it would come along  -  
one other or three others, it didn't much 
matter, then the room would shatter 
and there'd be a weird crazy moment 
of cacophony when they'd all smash 
together, in spite of each other 
seeking the solitary, and then 
someone would get the solo, 
talk alone for a while, until, after 
soaring, it would slowly land,
into some other mess of words, and 
someone else would pull it out, and 
run with it, and whatever the 
instrument, piano or drums, there'd 
be some magical thing passed between 
them, and respect would set in, and 
everyone else would stop to listen 
to the one guy doing whatever right 
then, quiet and thoughtful, and then 
it would go again. That confluence, 
you see, was supposed to take in 
everything -   the sorrows and the 
nights, the darkness and the happiness, 
the canyons and the fills, the misses 
and the gets and all the things being 
around, to a fill  -  those endless and 
mysterious things of race and servitude, 
fierce power and anxiety, and all the 
loss and regret too. But without any 
words, and mostly not even much 
sense. You couldn't 'line out' or 
graph what was going on, or I 
couldn't. To me, though, it was 
a music of theory, one that I was 
willing to follow, as I could. 
One moment I did, the
next I didn't.
As I said, people arrived all in different
ways  -  some guys coming in as legends
already  -  even if only to themselves  - 
and others sort of the humble-happy troupe,
merely being happy to be present, to play
with some real players. Lots of leather
and shine, long coats and funny hats
too. The stairways filled with hangers-on 
and people wanting entry but the crowd
sometimes was too much; a mess of things 
being around and present, the skill of
the fast-runner, the spin, the dive and 
the deep canyon again broke through,
 All in one. And no one had to talk. Nods
and slaps and all that brother stuff did
it. Here and there it always seemed there 
were one or two blind men who ended 
up playing grand solos on saxophones 
or other horns, and keyboard guys - often 
enough blind too - would bide their 
intensity and time away playing fills 
on one of the often two or three pianos 
in these lofts. All in all it was a 
remarkable and often sex-charged 
scene, with women as much an integral 
part of the music as anything else,
simply by their sexuality and elastic 
morals (let's say); long dark windows,
drab and moist with dewy sweat 
and stained by streaks of the
water-condensate rolling down. 
There'd be people huddled, or 
sometimes just nuzzling, making out,
(I think it was date-night too), or talking 
excitedly together - it was just never 
known what I'd run across or into 
upon entering any of these scenes. 
It was as if some great billowing 
New York artworld nuclear blast 
had occurred and expanded light 
and energy over the entire island,
and most intensely in these music
lofts where people stayed all night 
and sometimes for days, while 
others came and went and the 
great, black, resonating voices 
would cat-call back and forth all 
night to each other - jazz-inflected 
insults and jibes which kept much 
of the tension going and creatively 
added an element of frisson to the 
proceedings. Occasionally there 
would appear someone from the 
music press or the greater jazz-world 
to stay awhile and listen or take part, 
while others clapped or roared 
or got sick silently along some 
sidewall alone somewhere. The 
passed-out dregs of all this would 
be left alone or cradled by someone 
else - all in all an intriguingly and
always interesting scene, and by far 
I'd have to say jazz lofts were 
wilder and crazier than artlofts - 
which by contrast held professors, 
scholars, and the utmost of gentility, 
all swept along by the brush and 
broom of art's more graceful arc.

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