Artistically and attendance-wise, the final night of Loft Jazz, Saturday at d.c. space, was hardly a success. The musicians were, without exception, self-absorbed, pretentious artistes and they plied their clangorous wares before a handful of listeners, who steadily grew fewer and fewer during the concert.

But who really cares about success?

There was something quite endearing about these musicians. They were alive and real, and even their glaring musical deficiencies were often interesting and imaginative. They were making the effort to forge inventive musical statements.

Frank Kimbrough's piano solo was, for the most part, a stale updating of John Cage's trailblazing works. But there were moments of percussive talent and harmonic ingenuity. The Tim Chambers Quintet, which featured two double basses, droned its way through a series of harsh, abstract, quasi-bop collages, with Chambers' alto sax providing cool, melodic contrasts. Saxophonist Yah Ya capped the night with a brutal, squawking jam session. For some reason, Yah Ya apparently thinks it is the mid-'60s and he is John Coltrane.

Taken as a whole, Loft Jazz probably did not add up to much on the musical ledger. But the festival did allow musicians to try out their ideas and make a few glorious mistakes. And that's not such a bad bottom line.