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).