The New York loft jazz scene of the 1970s was a pivotal period for uncompromising, artist-produced work. Faced with a flagging jazz economy, a group of young avant-garde improvisers chose to eschew the commercial sphere and develop alternative venues in the abandoned factories and warehouses of Lower Manhattan. Loft Jazz provides the first book-length study of this period, tracing its history amid a series of overlapping discourses surrounding collectivism, urban renewal, experimentalist aesthetics, underground archives, and the radical politics of self-determination.
"[Heller] paints a kaleidoscopic portrait... inherently fascinating." —The Wire
"Heller - through dozens of interviews and painstaking research that included full access to the ample personal archive of percussionist Juma Sultan, a pivotal figure in the movement - refreshingly moves beyond reductionist notions."—Village Voice
“Using interviews and archival research, Michael G. Heller examines the scene’s rise and eventual fall from historical, pedagogical and sociological perspectives…. [He] itemizes what differentiated Loft Jazz from other styles and how its creation, dissemination and demise affected innovative jazz.”—The New York City Jazz Record
[Heller] gives readers insight into the various socio-political, economic, racial and artistic touchstones that helped shape the scene, while also providing analysis on New York City’s gentrification efforts beginning in the late ’70s, which transform the social fabric of Lower Manhattan.—DownBeat
“A long-awaited, in-depth study of the loft music phenomena of the 1970s. Based on firsthand accounts, it tells the story of musicians, largely African American, in this time of intense creativity and of self-determination. It is a story that needs to be told as the musical evolution, largely ignored, continues into the present.”—William Parker, bassist, composer, and author
“During the 1970s, when graying critics were writing jazz’s epitaph, a pioneering group of musicians turned spaces of postindustrial abandonment into creative performance spaces, art houses, bohemian assemblies, sites of self-determination, and historical archives. Michael C. Heller tells these musicians’ stories, and the stories behind their stories, with a flowing, searching quality matched only by the words of the musicians themselves. A beautiful book, a free jazz study at its best.”—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
“Heller brilliantly reconstructs the loft jazz scene through a community history of rare depth, insight, and creativity. Building on Juma Sultan’s remarkable archive of documents and personal recordings, Heller upends our understanding of the New York loft scene through his deployment of community-developed primary materials and new interviews. A rich portrait of a creative improvisational movement.”—Ingrid Monson, Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music, Harvard University