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My Name Is Albert Ayler


Swing Low Sweet Spiritual


Spiritual Unity

New York Eye And Ear Control

The Copenhagen Tapes


The Hilversum Session


Spirits Rejoice

Sonny’s Time Now

La Cave Live

At Slug’s Saloon

Live In Europe 1964-66

Stockholm, Berlin 1966

Lorrach/Paris 1966

Lost Performances

In Greenwich Village

Love Cry

New Grass

Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe

The Last Album

Live On The Riviera

Nuits De La Fondation Maeght


Holy Ghost


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January to June



News from 2010 - January to June

January 1 2010


Tribute To Albert Ayler - Live at the Dynamo


A nice way to start the new decade, a new Ayler tribute album from Roy Campbell, Joe McPhee, William Parker and Warren Smith. Released in November on the Future Marge label the CD features a live performance from the Dynamo in Pantin, Paris, recorded on November 21st, 2008. I have to thank Pierre Crépon for sending me the CD which I would have mentioned last month if the Royal Mail hadn’t decided it would be more fitting to wait a while and deliver it on Christmas Eve. So, thank you Santa Crépon.

Ayler tribute CDs are tricky things. On the one hand you don’t want slavish imitations (why bother since we can listen to the originals), on the other, there has to be more than a passing nod to the great man (otherwise it’s just an advertising gimmick). Marc Ribot’s Spiritual Unity group (which also features trumpeter, Roy Campbell) gets round the problem by effectively replacing Albert’s saxophone with a guitar. Henry Kaiser’s Healing Force album (still my favourite tribute CD) does it by giving a fresh insight into the songs of Ayler and Mary Maria, which tend to get overlooked in the Ayler oeuvre (not least by me). Here, we have a classic jazz quartet and one might expect a straightforward recreation of the Ayler/Cherry material. But with musicians of this calibre you’re bound to be surprised. Apart from one obvious nod to Cherry, with the inclusion of DC followed by Vibrations, the bulk of the tunes have more to do with that other trumpetting Don. Anyone who reads these pages knows of my affection for Don Ayler and it’s nice to see someone else who shares it. The following is from the sleevenotes:

“What is the sense of your gathering for a tribute to Albert Ayler?

Joe McPhee: I started to play music when I was 8 years old because my father was a trumpet player. Until I was 28, I only played the trumpet. In the meantime, I heard Albert Ayler’s music and the very first thing that I heard, that grabbed me, was the sound that was completely different from what I’d heard, there was an intensity, there was a spirituality, there was something very special about it that made me want to play the saxophone, so this tenor that you’ll see me play today, it’s all because of Albert Ayler. There are other people, John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman, who are very important in my life, but it was Albert’s sound that made me want to play that.

Roy Campbell: That’s how I felt about his brother playing trumpet, Donald Ayler. I’d never heard nobody playing trumpet like that and it just electrified me and excited me and then, I always thought that Albert’s music and his brother’s was like a circle, was the beginning and the end at the same time—so any point you hit, it’s still a circle. And in different periods of music, they were playing music like March themes and New Orleans and traditional themes, you know, almost like national anthems, but in the same time, when they soloed, they were playing in a vibrational level that was completely different. You know, they came from a circle, so they were playing the beginning and the end at the same time.”

The tracklist in full is:

1. Music is the Healing Force of the Universe (Albert Ayler) 6:30
2. Muntu (Miriam Makeba) (Tribute to Miriam Makeba) 15:18
Obama Victory Shoutout & Truth Is Marching In (Albert Ayler) 13:49
4. DC (Don Cherry) &
Vibrations (Albert Ayler) 16:51
5. Prophet John (Don Ayler) 15:05
6. Universal Indians (Albert Ayler) 6:40

Nice to get another version of Don Ayler’s Prophet John (still the standout track for me in the Holy Ghost box). Two items in the set are not strictly Ayler-related but are completely understandable given the date of the concert - Miriam Makeba died on 10th November, 2008 and Obama was elected on November 4th. And what better way to follow the Obama Victory Shoutout than Truth Is Marching In.

There’s a review of the CD on this free jazz blog, which also includes a youtube clip of the band.


Another Tribute

And speaking of tribute CDs, Sean Wilkie let me know about another, older, Italian one, which I hadn’t got listed on the Tributes page. The Preacher & The Ghost by Nexus (Tiziano Tononi and Daniele Cavallanti), was released in 1991 (Splasc(h) CDH 349) and comprises two ‘suites’, the first called ...Of Ghosts, Witches & Devils. Another approach to an Ayler tribute, not using the tunes, but going with the spirit of the music. Full details, reviews and a clip from one of the tracks are available on the Nexus site.


Happy New Year from Steve Tintweiss

Steve sent his greetings for 2010 along with the information that Nuits de la Fondation Maeght is now available on youtube. So, if you haven’t already heard Albert’s final recordings, you can sample them here:

1. In Heart Only
2. Spirits (part 1, part 2)
3. Holy Family (part 1, part 2)
4. Spirits Rejoice
5. Truth Is Marching In
6. Universal Message
7. Spiritual Reunion
8. Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe

The source for these postings on youtube is the Albert Ayler Depot which is also worth a visit.


Have Yourself An Albert Ayler Christmas Singalong

Christmas carols played in the style of Albert Ayler, now that’s right up my street, except it wasn’t, it was in Canada. I wish I’d picked up on this earlier but I only came across it the other day. The concert took place at the Mercury Lounge in Ottawa on December 22nd and featured the Bernard Stepien Sextet. There was a preview of the concert on the Ottawa Citizen site:

“If Wynton Marsalis' Christmas Jazz Jams is not your thing, why not attend the Albert Ayler Christmas Carols Tuesday night at the Mercury Lounge in Ottawa?

Three of Ottawa's intrepid free-playing saxophonists are involved -- Bernard Stepien (tenor saxophone, accordion), Linsey Wellman(alto saxophone and bass clarinet) and David Broscoe (baritone and alto saxophones). They will be joined by singer Anna Williams, cellist Mark Molnar, pianist Jennifer Giles, bassist Philippe Charbonneau, and drummer Scott Warren.

Stepien, the project's instigator, says: "The concept of playing Christmas Carols with extreme avant-garde material of the late saxophonist Albert Ayler is no longer considered as adventurous. By now, everybody knows it works .... The reason for this enthusiasm is very simple: Albert Ayler based his compositions mostly on spiritual music which makes the transition to Carols a natural but also all of that avant-garde hype seem to mix well with the energy usually found in Black Church where Ayler played in his teens."

Singing along is welcome, Stepien says.”

And more information is available on Bernard Stepien’s site.


Joe Rigby

From the snows of Canada we now wing our way to Bonnie Scotland. Sorry, just got a touch of the Alan Whickers. Roy Morris, who runs the Homeboy Music label and has been mentioned in these pages several times before, emailed to say a new Joe Rigby CD is now available.

Joe Rigby - Music (homeboy music 6)

A “stunning solo recording” made in Scotland by Joe Rigby while he was touring with the Steve Reid Ensemble in 2008. “It includes Joe's version of the Scottish lament The Dark Island and a transcendant Lift Every Voice And Sing.”

In November, 2009, Joe visited Scotland again and Roy writes;
“and we went into the studio twice. another solo recording, and a completely spontaneous meeting with 3 young local (but not jazz) musicians, a bagpiper, drummer and percussionist. it must have been meant to be, the sonic combination of mostly tenor sax and pipes something quite new and fresh. a great sound.”

Hopefully these sessions will soon be released on the Homeboy label.



Three from Pierre

Where now? Into the time machine and back to the past courtesy of three items from Pierre Crépon. The first is an article from the Cleveland Call & Post from near the start of Ayler’s career, February 1st, 1964, and it’s especially interesting since it concludes with a reference to “an album of spirituals on the Debut Recording Label” which confirms that Swing Low Sweet Spiritual (which is probably better known in its CD form of Goin’ Home) was not some whimsical afterthought of the Witches and Devils recording session, but was fully intended to be Albert’s next release.


And so to the end. Archie Shepp’s obituary of Albert from The New York Times, December 20th, 1970.


Pierre also sent me a copy of the French Jazz Magazine No. 185 from January 1971, which contains the long article about Albert Ayler
La Bataille d’Ayler n’est pas Finie, with photos from the Fondation Maeght concerts. So, here’s a big picture of a smiling Albert to welcome in the new decade.



And as the sun sinks slowly in the west ...

... the messageboard once more rises into view, as it always does at the start of a new year. That’s because I’ve archived last year’s
What’s New page along with the others. Just thought I’d mention though that Dikko Faust has posted a couple of items there related to Sean Wilkie’s breakdown of the La Cave sessions, so it’s worth a look.


And finally ...

I used to get my Guardians a day late from the man next door but he’s now switched to the Daily Mail for the free dvds and one does have one’s standards, so I missed this item. Thanks to Richard Leigh for sending me the link and I shall bear it in mind every time I get a promotional email from Verve.


February 1 2010

Ayler Upbeat Windups

Dikko Faust has sent some transcriptions of Albert Ayler’s ‘Upbeat Windups’ which I’ve placed in the Music section of the site. Dikko explains:

“This began comparing Spirits Rejoice & Infinite Spirit and expanded. Every example starts with an upbeat dominant (fifth) resolving to the tonic downbeat of the first measure of a song, tune, anthem, carol, nursery song, bugle call. A very common device, for Ayler as well as everyone else.
A technical name for this musical device is ‘dominant pickup’.”

And if you’re in New York this month you can see Dikko performing with the RUCMA (Rise Up Creative Music & Art) Orchestra at Local 269 Bar, 269 Houston St., on February 15th at 10 pm, when he will be leading his arrangement of Ayler’s Truth Is Marching In.


Ayler’s Christmas Carols

Last month I mentioned the Albert Ayler Christmas Carol concert which took place in Ottawa on December 22nd and I was so intrigued I emailed Bernard Stepien for more information:

“All in all, it went well despite the fact that we had only one rehearsal. This is the second time we did this project. The first one was in 2006. This time I spent quite some time to match more appropriately the carols to Ayler’s tunes. Here is the song list.

The matching criteria go anywhere from almost perfect match like Zion Hill and The First Noël or a very close atmosphere like Deck the Halls and Omega is the Alpha or Bells and Joy to the World. Others like Silent Night and Our Prayer fall more in the category of close moods. In the same line, Spirits (the real one, not the one published on your web site) and Angels from the Realm of Glory were stunning with our African vocalist getting trapped into the similarities. She started to do an improvised collage of fragments of both songs to a point where people in the audience took the Ayler tune as the carol and vice versa.

One category was a match between the more French military music oriented Ayler tunes like Spiritual Rebirth and Infinite Spirit and the similarly marching band-like Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and O Come All Ye Faithful.

Finally, while reading the Copenhagen Tapes liner notes, I found out that Albert himself based some of his compositions on Swedish folk song. To me, this explained why the German O Tannenbaum was so close to Ayler’s Ghosts, that apparently is based on a famous Swedish folk song. All of them belonging to the same Northern European musical zone.

We had 28 paying spectators, a dozen sent in regrets because they were tied up with other events. Considering that in Ottawa, avant-garde gigs by local musicians like us never attract more than a half dozen people, this gig’s numbers are considered as a success...”

And, if you can work out the time difference, you can listen to Bernard on his regular Wednesday night radio programme, ‘Rabble Without A Cause’, on his local university station, CKCU-FM 93.1.


So Why Wasn’t Albert On The Cover?

Doing a random search I came across the following quote from Paul McCartney in a review of Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles in Billboard (6 December, 1997):

‘An especially interesting section of the book deals with the making of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” a record in which the band members tried to show their alter-egos and diversity. McCartney remarks that “we could do a bit of B. B. King, a bit of Stockhausen, a bit of Albert Ayler, a bit of Ravi Shankar, a bit of ‘Pet Sounds’ [the Beach Boys’ album] . . . there was no pigeonholing like there [had] been before.” ‘

And the advert on the right comes from the July 16th, 1966 issue of Billboard.


Are you young or old?
Scared or confident?
Albert Ayler will tell you
who and what and where you are.

[I’m old, scared and live in Stoke.]


February 5 2010

Ayler’s Christmas Carols

Bernard Stepien has just put an mp3 of Spirits vs. Angels from the Realm of Glory on his page about the Ayler Christmas Carol Concert held in Ottawa on December 22nd. Even though Christmas is over, you should give this a listen - it is really fascinating.


March 1 2010

Sunny’s Time Now

I’ve heard differing reports about the Sunny Murray DVD released last December (haven’t seen it myself yet since it only seems to be available from the distributor and I cling to my faith that everything must one day end up in Poundland), but here’s a review on the Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches blog. And there’s a 2 minute clip from the film at The Wire.


April 1 2010

Sessionography for Don

Alfie Cook wrote and suggested I add a sessionography for Donald Ayler to the site and provided me with the details. Good idea, so I did it and it’s here:

Donald Ayler Sessionography


A couple of compilations

Checking out ebay I came across these two Japanese LPs which weren’t listed on the Compilations page of the Discography.

artistry02 thisisfreedom02

The Artistry of Albert Ayler, a double LP, twins Spiritual Unity with Spirits Rejoice. This Is Freedom is a sampler record for the Freedom label and includes ‘Saints’ from Witches and Devils.


Albert in Stoke

Not sure whether this will be of interest, but one of the more obscure items on the Tributes page is a song by The Western Trio called Albert Ayler (Dying Words) issued on cassette in 1983. This has now appeared on a website devoted to music from Stoke-on-Trent under the title Bells 2 by The Sons of Monkeys.


May 1 2010


Sant’ Anna Arresi Jazz 2010

The focus of this year’s Sant’ Anna Arresi Jazz Festival on Sardinia is Albert Ayler. The festival (the 25th) runs from 24th to 30th August and will feature musicians who either played with Albert or were influenced by his music. The festival website is under construction at the moment but if you’re planning an Italian holiday in August, it’s worth keeping an eye on it for further details.


Albert in England

As we know, Europe played a big part in the career of Albert Ayler. France saw his first experiments with a new form of jazz when he was stationed there with the army band, and was also the venue for his final recorded concerts. Scandinavia gave him the space to develop his music and Sweden, with the film, My Name Is Albert Ayler, continues to keep his memory alive. The Netherlands gave us The Hilversum Session, Germany, the only published biography of Albert (Peter Niklas Wilson’s Spirits Rejoice) and that tantalising glimpse of the band in full flight during the 1966 tour in Kasper Collin’s film. As far as I know Albert never played in Italy but there is still a positive connection. Prophecy, Live at Slug’s Saloon, Live In Europe 1964-66 and Live on the Riviera all originated in Italy and, of course, in 1980, Donald Ayler recorded that 3 LP set in Florence. And then there’s England.

Apart perhaps from Val Wilmer’s iconic photographs and her chapter on Albert in As Serious As Your Life, England’s main connection with Albert Ayler will always be the infamous concert at the London School of Economics on November 15th 1966, recorded by the BBC, which they then refused to broadcast and subsequently destroyed. I recently came across Humphrey Lyttelton’s account of the concert in his book, Take It From The Top. Humphrey Lyttelton, I should explain for our foreign viewers, was pretty much the face of British jazz when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s. He was part of the trad boom, had a hit with ‘Bad Penny Blues’ (courtesy, it must be said, of the genius producer, Joe Meek) and hosted a long-running radio show on the BBC about jazz. He also fronted the BBC TV series, Jazz 625 and Jazz Goes to College. Later in his career he was also the host of a radio comedy show and when he died a couple of years ago he was generally mourned as a national treasure. However, back in 1966, he was regarded as a bit of an enemy of the avant-garde - definitely part of the old guard, and I always had a sneaking suspicion that he was the one who decided Albert’s show must not go on. So, when I came across his account of the L.S.E. concert quite by accident when I was on the google books site, my imagination filled in the gaps of the annoying ‘snippet view’ and I purchased myself a cheap copy of the out-of-print book, thinking that Humph would own up to the crime. No such luck of course, he just blames ‘the men upstairs’. Still, I thought his account was interesting enough to reproduce below, particularly since it’s the view of someone who was no particular fan of Albert’s.

From Take It From The Top by Humphrey Lyttelton (London: Robson Books, 1975.):


And just to remind ourselves what those wild and crazy guys sounded like just a few days before, here’s the unreleased Stockholm concert from the same tour:

Truth Is Marching In (8:43)
Omega Is The Alpha (9:59)
Our Prayer (7:49)

Donald Ayler (t), Albert Ayler (ts), Michel Sampson (vln), Bill Folwell (b), Beaver Harris (d)
Koncerthus, Stockholm, Sweden, November 10th, 1966


May 23 2010


Albert Ayler - French Radio Programme - Thursday 27th May

Axel Van Looy has just let me know about a programme to be broadcast on the Paris-based radio station TSF JAZZ this Thursday (27th May) with the title: “His name was Albert Ayler”. I’m not sure whether you can listen to the programme over the internet (it’s on at 8.30, 11.30 and 16.30) but the station’s website has a podcast section, so presumably the Ayler show will be available there after Thursday. The reason for the programme, aside from this year being the 40th anniversary of Albert’s death, is the publication of Albert Ayler: témoignages sur un Holy Ghost by Franck Médioni. This is just a quick update to let you know about the radio programme; I’ll do a feature on the book in my regular update on 1st June.


June 1 2010


Albert Ayler: témoignages sur un Holy Ghost


A new book about Albert Ayler has just been published in France. Albert Ayler: témoignages sur un Holy Ghost edited by Franck Médioni, has a preface by Archie Shepp, contributions from Francis Marmande, Michel Le Bris, Robert Latxague, Daniel Caux, Gérard Rouy, Yves Buin, P-L. Renou, Philippe Robert, Jean-Pierre Moussaron, Jean-Louis Chautemps, Daniel Berger, Jacques Bisceglia, Christian Désagulier, Didier Levallet, François Tusques, Raphaël Imbert, Zéno Bianu, Yoyo Maeght and Franck Médioni, and témoignages (testimony) from Gary Peacock, Sonny Rollins, Sunny Murray, Alain Corneau, Bertrand Denzler, Bobby Few, Joëlle Léandre, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Aldo Romano, Michel Portal, François Jeanneau, David Liebman, Joe Lovano, David S. Ware, Charles Gayle, Oliver Lake, Daunik Lazro, Peter Brotzmann, Joe McPhee, Marc Ribot, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Noah Howard, Steve Lacy, Urs Leimgruber, François Corneloup, Sylvain Kassap, Louis Sclavis, Evan Parker, Cecil Taylor and Wayne Shorter. It’s published by Le Mot et le reste, has 332 pages and the ISBN No. is 9782915378887. It’s listed on amazon.co.uk, though not the US site, and there’s a review (in French) here.

The programme on the Paris-based radio station TSF JAZZ about the book which was broadcast on Thursday (and which I did a quick update about last week) turned out to be a three -minute segment. I missed it, of course (Thursday I was painting the landing), but Axel Van Looy recorded it and sent me a copy, and since it hasn’t appeared on the TSF website yet, and since it’s short, I thought I might as well put it on the site:

“His name was Albert Ayler”: Franck Médioni on Albert Ayler: témoignages sur un Holy Ghost


Calling all Members of the 76th Army Band stationed in Orléans, France in 1959 - 1961.

Donning the mantle of Bing Crosby (I already have the pipe) I now get to do that scene from White Christmas where I call on all Albert Ayler’s army buddies who were stationed with him in France to please get in touch. Not for my benefit, but for Steve Geng who’s currently writing a novel about Paris in 1960 that culminates on Bastille Day when Albert Ayler marched in the Bastille Day Parade with his Army Band. There’s a character in the story loosely based on Albert himself and Steve is hoping to get in touch with some of the fellow members of the band in order to get some background material. Steve himself was an ‘army brat’ who spent some time in Orléans and might even remember hearing Albert practising in a music room in the EM Club at Coligny Caserne. His first book, Thick As Thieves, was published in 2007 and
Steve’s website has a mound of fascinating information about that. So, if there is anyone who served with Albert Ayler in France with the 76th Army Band who happens to read this - a bit of a longshot, I know - Steve would love to hear from you. Cut to Rosemary Clooney.



La Cave

Richard Koloda has emailed to say that Steve Traina is writing a book about the La Cave club in Cleveland (venue for many iconic acts over the years, including Albert Ayler). He’s also putting a reunion show on at a local club at the end of this month featuring some La Cave stalwarts and is talking about the show on his radio programme on WCSB, Saturday, 9 - 11 am (EST).



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