WILDFLOWERS
Avant-Garde Jazz • United States

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When originally issued by Douglas, the 5-LP Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions stepped into a virtual void of free jazz. Impulse, the lasting champion of labels willing to risk their budgets on free jazz artists, had already given up on what was a steadily dwindling release program by 1975. Besides the then-fledgling Black Saint label, Arista's cautious dabbling (with its Novus series and Anthony Braxton's contract) and the handful of artist-run labels still in the game, free jazz had become an even scarcer commodity in the United States' post-Vietnam depression.

But the Wildflowers LPs weren't only a bucket of cold water to the free jazz economy—they also just happened to document nearly all of the important US-based players of the era. Between those still surviving in New York from the 60s (Sunny Murray, Marion Brown, Dave Burrell, Andrew Cyrille, Jimmy Lyons), recent transplants from Chicago's AACM (Braxton, Air) and
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WILDFLOWERS Discography

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.. Album Cover 4.50 | 1 ratings
Wildflowers 1: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions
Avant-Garde Jazz 1977
.. Album Cover 4.00 | 2 ratings
Wildflowers 2: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions
Avant-Garde Jazz 1977
.. Album Cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Wildflowers 3: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions
Avant-Garde Jazz 1977
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Wildflowers 4: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions
Avant-Garde Jazz 1977
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Wildflowers 5: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions
Avant-Garde Jazz 1977

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WILDFLOWERS re-issues & compilations

.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Jazz Loft Sessions
Avant-Garde Jazz 1997
.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions - Complete
Avant-Garde Jazz 1999

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WILDFLOWERS Reviews

WILDFLOWERS Wildflowers 2: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions

Live album · 1977 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
js
In the late 70s, it was becoming increasingly difficult for jazz musicians in the avant-garde to get a recording out. Most major labels had lost interest because avant-garde jazz didn’t generate enough income to bother with, unfortunately a lot of great music went unrecorded. In 1977 a small subsidiary of LA based disco label Casablanca, called Douglas, stepped up to the bat and released a set of compilations called “Wildflowers”, that documented New York City’s fabled ‘loft scene’ of the late 70s. This excellent series of compilations still gives us a vivid picture of what that vibrant and creative loft scene was all about. “Wildflowers 2” is of course the second album in that series, and features great performances by stellar musicians such as Anthony Braxton, and a very young Leo Smith, before he added Wadada to his name.

The generally accepted cliché about loft jazz was that everyone was playing ‘free jazz’, but “Wildflowers 2” presents a good example of how varied and unpredictable the loft scene really was. Side one opens with a grooving modal jam by Sonelius Smith that may remind some of Pharoh Sanders’ ‘spiritual jazz’. This track is followed by an extravagant post bop ballad featuring Ken McIntyre on flute and Richard Harper on piano. This song’s dramatic flourishes may remind some of Jaki Byard’s work with Eric Dolphy. This side is great, but the real fireworks come on side two.

Side two opens with the always brilliant Anthony Braxton and his ensemble romping their way through “73-S Kelvin”, a bizarre and often times humorous Braxton original that appears on a previous album with Braxton and Chick Corea’s group, “Circle”. At the end of the composition, Braxton launches into a furious sax solo that shows why he was, and probably still is, the master of extended techniques on the saxophone. The following track features Marion Brown solo on the saxophone as he combines tonal passages with some extended techniques of his own. The album closes with Leo Smith’s ensemble that features a young and very fiery Oliver Lake on saxophone. The opening melody is humorously deconstructive and deliberately obtuse, somewhat like a child that hates their music lessons. Its very refreshing to hear all of this because much of today’s avant-garde seems to be lacking in any sense of irony or humor. After the opening arrangement, Lake and Smith both take turns with solos that are careful in construction, as the ensemble is also very spare and careful in their contributions as well. This is a good example of that well-known AACM approach to free improv that values silence as much as noise.

Looking at the names of the various sidemen on here, many are unrecognizable and unknown, but one surprising name really jumps out, and that’s Stanley Crouch on the drums in Leo Smith’s group. Crouch has become well known over the years as a writer, critic and journalist who is often critical of the avant-garde in jazz. After hearing his flamboyant and devilishly clever contributions to the Leo Smith piece, it becomes obvious that his criticisms are certainly not based on ignorance or any timid feelings about this music.

Like most live recorded avant-garde jazz from this time period, the sound quality on here is a little rough, but back then it seemed like this sort of lack of polish was to be appreciated and admired. An almost kitsch staple of early avant-garde jazz was an acoustic piano that was worn out and out of tune and recorded with a room mic, so there was plenty of vague room reverb. The end result is an instrument that doesn't sound like a European concert hall component anymore, but more like something from Africa with its buzzing off center harmonies. You get a lot of that on here, maybe thats whats missing with today's scene, the pianos are too well cared for, ha.

WILDFLOWERS Wildflowers 1: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions

Live album · 1977 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
snobb
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.

Probably most representative document of loft jazz era was 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 and was reissued on CDs. Each of five albums contains collection of compositions recorded by different artists.

Wildflowers: New York Loft Jazz Sessions 1 opens with great sax player Kalaparusha's trio (he passed away last year leaving a very few solo albums,coming from 70s). Soulful free sax improvisation,supported with pulsation from rhythm section."Jays" aren't presented on any other Kalaparusha album.

Second composition "New Times" is played by alto sax player Ken McIntyre,better known by his debut album "Looking Ahead" (recorded with Eric Dolphy). If McIntyre early works are deeply rooted in hard bop, "New Times" is fast, screaming quite free composition based on African rhythms.

Drummer Sunny Murray played and recorded with Albert Ayler in 60s among others.His quintet plays "Over The Rainbow" here, with sax player David Murray obviously taking on Ayler's soulful side here.

Rivbea Studio's owner Sam Rivers plays "Rainbows" as trio leader,his fast sax soloing is without doubt "Wildflowers 1" crown.Explosive, with heavy duty rhythm section, Rivers adds power and drive into quite relaxed release atmosphere. Since all material is recorded live, one can hear crowd screaming at some Rivers solos' top.

Album's closer is surprisingly muscular Henry Threadgill's Air composition "Usu Dance". Usually more tuneful, Threadgill shows here different side of his music - high energy of live show.

It's known that some best jazz comes from live recordings. And two very important factors for recorded music quality are the time and the place. "Wildflowers" aren't just compilation - it's very precise historical document from short-lived loft jazz era, recorded at its best time in it'e best place. Each of five series' albums is unique and excellent on its own way, now re-issued as 3 CD set they are easier accessible. Everyone interested in first meeting with loft jazz must start here (old fans already own this set for sure).

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