Thanks to Pierre Crépon for letting me know about William Parker’s book Conversations, which was published in June last year by Rogueart. The book consists of 34 conversations, mostly with musicians of the free jazz/improvisation persuasion, including Billy Bang, Han Bennink, Dave Burrell, Charles Gayle, Frank Lowe, Louis Moholo and Alan Silva. Full details of the 445 page book (which also comes with a CD featuring clips from the interviews) are available on the Rogueart site. There’s also a review on the allaboutjazz site. There are two conversations which touch specifically on Albert Ayler, the ones with Milford Graves and Sunny Murray. I’m probably overstepping the bounds of copyright with the following lengthy extracts, for which I apologise, but I do think they add some new information (especially the second one) to the Ayler story.
From the Milford Graves chapter:
“I’ve seen in print that Albert Ayler cracked my ceiling in my apartment. That’s inaccurate. That’s bad history. He did not crack my ceiling when I was living in Brooklyn. I was in an old four-family apartment building. Albert came over to my three-room apartment to do some playing. I said, “Let’s go into my playing room.” It was a very small room. So Albert looked around at the ceiling and he took a rag and he stuffed it in his horn. He looked at me and said, “I’m going to put this rag in the opening of my horn, because”—as he was looking up at the worn condition of my ceiling—“I don’t want to crack your ceiling more than what it already is.” And Albert played but Albert didn’t play the same way we did on a lot of gigs. Albert didn’t play a tune. In the end Albert did not further widen the cracks in my ceiling. Albert is an icon in the music and they will play Albert’s music and people will try to play Albert’s stuff and think they’re playing like Albert Ayler. I say, “No, you’re playing relative to Albert Ayler or an adjusted Albert Ayler according to the situation he was in.” He played some tricky melodies; Albert knew the tricky melodies that he was playing would be catchy! He knew to play the French national anthem when it was necessary.
But I was there at times when Albert didn’t do that. Albert didn’t play catchy melodies when we were in a parade for the opening of the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BART/S) in Harlem in 1965. The parade started at Lenox Avenue and 130th Street, went down to 125th Street and across to Seventh Avenue, then back along Seventh Avenue to 130th Street and Lenox Avenue where Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School was located. People were on the sidewalks of Harlem, they were looking out their windows! I had a drum tied around my waist. It was Don Ayler, Albert and I. Amiri Baraka [founder of BART/S] in front with two other guys carrying the Black Arts and American flags with a police car escorting us. Sun Ra was behind us with his band. To my knowledge this event was not recorded.
I remember one time when we played at the BART/S and it was powerful! It was Albert, Don, I think Henry grimes, Mustafa [Abdul Rahim] and what’s the alto player who died?
Charles Tyler. There wasn’t no more of that (sings) dah dah dah du du dah dah ... ... you didn’t hear none of that! You did not hear those noted Albert Ayler lines that people were used to hearing. It wasn’t like the Love Cryrecording on Impulse records. It was none of that stuff. No, this was something totally different. That was an adaptive music.”
From the Sunny Murray chapter:
“Let me see if you remember this, now. Remember we were doing a gig, we did a week at Lush Life?
It was me, you...
Curtis Clark, Grachan Moncur... we was in the middle of the gig and Donald Ayler walks in. I’ll keep telling the story and see if I’m making it up or not. (laughs) He walks in and he’s like walking up to the bandstand. Then he turns around and you’re doing something, you make a gesture, and he like leaves. Then he comes back at the intermission with an alto saxophone, playing the alto saxophone in the corner.
That’s possible, because that’s where he went, from the trumpet to the alto. That’s what he’s playing now.
As I recall, he played the alto saxophone in the corner the whole intermission and then he left. And then he came back after the gig was done and y’all was talkin’.
I don’t remember that but I remember the horn and the playin’. Because he came in my house in Brooklyn with that. I hate to say it, but I kind of warned Al. He said, “I’m bringing my younger brother to new York. But my mother don’t want me to do it because he’s the baby.” I was kind of talking against it. Not really against it, but contrary. So finally Albert brought Donnie. Donnie was a great young cat. And I saw this love, this loved one. I said, “Hey man. You can’t let Donnie down, man. He loves you too much. If you let him down, he’s gonna crack like glass.” Albert said, “Oh no, Murray. It couldn’t be about that, Murray.”Okay, so that moment came. It came with Impulse. Impulse didn’t want Donnie and Albert didn’t know how to handle that. Albert started cutting, cutting away a bit. Not with words or fightin’, just he met this girl, Marie. I didn’t even know where Albert disappeared to. Normally me and Albert always keep some connections. We were very close. He wasn’t too far away but I didn’t know where.
But for Donnie, it was like his brother disappeared in the ground. he’d look here, he’d look there, people would say this. He’d come over my house. Then he started going out because he came to my house during that period when he was searching, and I was in the toilet and he was ringin’ the bell, hollerin’ my name. It was in the summer and my windows was open. By the time I was finished he was almost at the corner. I ran out, pulling my pants up, screaming, “Donnie!” He just kept saying, “No, no! You’re like that, too!” He kept talkin’ and I’m runnin’ and sayin’, “Come on back in the house.” I figure I’d see him again and explain and talk with him. Why would I not? And then he got kind of lost somewhere in New York. He went further out, I think, and then that depression and the medicine. Just before that, him and Albert came to my house, but Albert didn’t tell him where he lived in Brooklyn. He didn’t tell Donnie where he lived in Brooklyn. In some way, they made a rendezvous.
Albert came with some bagpipes, said he was gonna play bagpipes. He wanted me to introduce him to Rufus Harley. Rufus is a good friend of mine. Albert and me was gonna come down to Philly together. Anyway, after he played the bagpipes he almost fainted. It was so funny. He was playin’, after he played he’d fall on the couch, “Aaargh!” Said, “Murray, that’s too hard!” I said, “No it’s not; do it, man.” But it was really nice when he did and when he got the air in it, when he got the air blowin’, you know. Because Albert was like Johnny Griffin, he likes to jump around and move around and all that shit.”
Mats Gustafsson’s Discaholic Corner
Pierre also sent me a link to this page on Mats Gustafsson’s site which deals with perhaps the rarest of Ayler’s LPs, Something Different!!!!! (aka The First Recordings) - in fact the rarest copy of the rarest LP, with Bengt Nordstrom’s original mock up of the cover.
Richard Koloda sent me a number of press cuttings recently, among which was the following review from The Sunday Times of 20th November, 1966 of Albert Ayler’s only appearance in the U.K. at the London School of Economics.
The polar opposite of Derek Jewell in terms of Ayler appreciation was the Cleveland journalist, Bernard Lairet, and Richard also sent me some of his articles about Albert, including an obituary, ‘The Holy Ghost Is Dead’, an article written on the first anniversary of his death, ‘Ayler: still unsung in his home town’, and a couple of pieces relating to the Ayler Memorial Concert held in Cleveland on 11th April, 1971. Richard also added this poignant coda in his email: “Lairet was a rather good jazz critic. Unfortunately he was shot by his mother-in-law a few years later—he was coming home from a party, and tried to get in his house. Unfortunately he was a bit inebriated, and she thought it was a prowler. I spoke to his widow as she taught French at CSU—supposedly he was planning a book on Albert Ayler, but she said much of his work and notes were lost after he passed.”
Yair Dagan sent me details of another Ayler tribute - Michael Anderson’s Zalvi - Tears for Albert Ayler, which nods in the direction of Bells by being a one-sided LP. Not a recent release, there’s a blog post about the record dated 2005, which includes a review, which concludes with the following:
“This was to be the soundtrack to an apocalyptic film, by Anderson, and mid-way through the side he opens the cellar door and The End flys right out. Shit gets dark at the end. Whether it is locusts eating our souls or Ayler gasping for breath in the East River, I don't know.”
And there’s also a 6 minute excerpt from the LP on there, just scoot down the page to November 4th.
Bloody Hippies again
Yair also found this page from The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle from February, 1968 which includes an ESP advert. Click the picture for the mind-blowing readable version.
So that’s what was happening in Cleveland, Ohio. Meanwhile back in jolly old England, according to Drowned In Sound Sir Paul McCartney was cementing his reputation as the most far out of The Beatles:
“He was the first one who screened all 485 minutes of Warhol’s Empire for almost all of London's art-elite of the time (and in his front room, to the accompaniment of a continuously rotated Albert Ayler album, with the artist himself in attendance to boot).”
Unfortunately, not news of the whereabouts of the tape, but here’s the poster (click it for the bigger one).
The handbill is for sale on the RecordMecca site, so if you’ve got an odd $900 lying around you can stick it in your cart. In the description, there’s this quote from Michael Cuscuna:
“I had a front row seat. Coleman Hawkins was in great form with his quartet and Zoot Sims, backed by Roger Kellaway, was absolutely incandescent that night. Half way through Sonny Rollins’s set, Yusef Lateef slipped onto the stage with tenor in hand. The closer was shocking as the audience was expecting the classic Coltrane quartet. Instead out came Alice Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison and Rashied Ali and an army of horns including Don and Albert Ayler who stood at the edge of the stage and exploded into turbulent sound. I, for one, was pinned to my chair in utter confusion.”
This legendary concert, the only known recording of John Coltrane with Albert Ayler (and a recording does exist, in the possession of Ravi Coltrane, but has never been released), was also described by Gary Giddins in a 2002 interview:
“I went to the legendary concert called “The Titans of the Tenor” on February 19, 1966. I will never forget that evening for as long as I live. It was a Saturday night at Philharmonic Hall, which had one of the worst acoustic set-ups of any major concert hall. It was later destroyed and turned into Avery Fisher Hall. I believe the concert started at midnight. The advertised saxophonists were Zoot Sims, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Even though the concert was called “Titans of the Tenor,” the producer for some reason also stuck in the Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer Quintet. I don’t know what that was about. Zoot and Hawkins did their bit, Sonny played thirty minutes during which he brought out unannounced guest Yusef Lateef. The first set was terrific. The second set was going to be Coltrane, and the emcee Dave Lambert said Rollins would come back to play with Coltrane. So, we were all sitting there expecting to see Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones, and McCoy Tyner. Instead, a dozen guys walk out there, with Garrison being the only one from the Quartet. He had two drummers, Rashied Ali and J.C. Moses, we didn’t know about that. Interstellar Space wasn’t released for years after that. Alice Coltrane was on piano, and nobody knew about her, at least us kids. We only knew of the records. We knew when you went to Sam Goody and bought the new John Coltrane record, we thought that was what was going on. So, he comes out with all these people - the Ayler Brothers…Man! To this day, I don’t think I will ever go into shock the way I did that day. Dan Morgenstern was there, and we talk about it and still joke about it. Dan just hated it. He was so offended and thought it was insulting to the other musicians. But, me, I was about 18 years old at the time. I was with my girlfriend and we turned to each other afterwards, and we both decided we loved it but were a little ashamed of loving it because we couldn’t explain it. We weren’t even completely sure it was music, but we felt invigorated. It was thrilling. There was a guy in a wheelchair holding up a brown paper bag, obviously a bottle in it. We had fifth or sixth row seats, near the center aisle, and he wheels up right up to that row, and Coltrane and the whole group got into some kind of rhythmic thing, and this guy started chanting. He was holding the brown paper bag like in a power fist, over his head, and he starts chanting, “Coltrane, Coltrane, Coltrane.” It was perfectly within the time and nobody was upset because it sounded like he was a member of the band!”
The rest of that interview is on the Jerry Jazz Musician site, and Gary Giddins expanded on his reactions to the concert in his chapter of The Show I’ll Never Forget : 50 writers relive their most memorable concertgoing experience edited by Sean Manning (Da Capo Press, 2007):
“... John Coltrane was one of five wind players who took the stage, including two more tenor titans (though at that time, you could have been punched out for claiming any such distinction for them), Albert Ayler—recognizable by a white lightning streak in his beard—and Pharoah Sanders; altoist Carlos Ward; and Albert’s troubled brother, trumpeter Donald Ayler. Here is where Morgenstern and I part on every detail. He concluded, “It was not unlike watching Joe Louis wrestle.” I felt like a kid at the circus. The joyful, terrifying noise lasted about an hour. Except for a snatch of “My Favorite Things,” melodies were not apparent, though the Rodgers and Hammerstein echo was itself momentous. Coltrane inserted it amid a squalling solo, played with more than a few deep knee bends, and the shock of recognition elicited an explosion of approval. ... This was music of massed sonorities. The rhythm section was not a thing apart, providing a swinging foundation, but a collusive force. The collective assault either focused your attention or dispersed it. In the absence of melody and harmonic progressions, it relied on the fever of the players, and while this shattering din could never be the sole future of jazz or of any other kind of music, it could—and, in fact, already did—represent a new way to play and experience music. The sound spread evenly, like the dribblings on a Jackson Pollock, yet the wall-to-wall harangue allowed for plenty of individual details as each player emerged from the ensemble for an Ascension-like salvo. The strength in Coltrane’s playing emanated from his spine, as he squeezed out sounds accompanied by calisthenics, his embouchure tight enough to redden his face, saliva flying from his reed. When he wasn’t blowing tenor or soprano, he shook percussion instruments, as did the other saxophonists. The part of the audience that was shocked and infuriated retreated into silence or left. The Dionysus of the wheelchair added to the barrage, cheering the players without pause. At one point, he initiated a chant—“COL-trane, COL-trane, COL- trane”—which he kept up for several minutes. Despite the volatile energy level, there were hollows and prominences—each soloist readily distinguishable. Yes, the saxophonists squealed and screeched, but they found individual ways to squeal and screech. I recall Sanders playing for a long stretch with his fingers splayed outward, never touching the saxophone keys, rendering an unholy and unbroken wail, and Donald Ayler offering little more than listless tremolos spaced within an octave’s range. Albert’s solo was something else; a hurricane of raw emotion and radiant luster. I had not paid much attention to Albert Ayler previously, and immediately resolved to make up for it. The final onslaught was so heavy (needless to say, Rollins had long since gone home) that, despite a chanted wind down, its cessation was followed by an abrupt emptiness, as though we had suddenly been turned back on our own resources. I felt light and giddy and strangely peaceful.”
13 Miniatures for Albert Ayler
A new CD on the French RogueArt label, featuring 13 tracks recorded on 2nd December, 2010 at the Fondation Cartier in Paris, at the concert held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Albert Ayler’s death. The featured artists are: Joe McPhee, Steve Dalachinsky, Evan Parker, Jean-Jacques Avenel, Joëlle Léandre, Sylvain Kassap, Ramon Lopez, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Simon Goubert, Raphaël Imbert, Urs Leimgruber, Didier Levallet, Barre Phillips, Michel Portal, Lucia Recio, Christian Rollet and John Tchicai and the track listing is as follows:
01. Jacqueline Caux (3:57) 02. Raphaël Imbert, Urs Leimgruber, Joe McPhee, Evan Parker (5:49) 03. Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Sylvain Kassap, Christian Rolle (4:37) 04. Steve Dalachinsky, Joëlle Léandre, Barre Phillips (7:41) 05. Ramon Lopez (3:13) 06. Ramon Lopez, Barre Phillips, Michel Portal (4:10) 07. Jean-Jacques Avenel, Simon Gobert, Joe McPhee (3:23) 08. Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Joe McPhee (3:49) 09. Evan Parker (3:44) 10. Joëlle Léandre, Urs Leimgruber, John Tchicai (6:44) 11. Simon Goubert, Raphaël Imbert, Sylvain Kassap, Didier Levallet (5:31) 12. Joëlle Léandre, Urs Leimgruber, Lucia Recio (6:40) 13. Joe McPhee (5:13)
And here’s a bit of blurb from the sleevenotes by Philippe Carles:
‘Would it be that when everything finishes that everything starts? Rather than a postlude or a coda, the five minutes a cappella by Joe McPhee on the tenor saxophone placed here in thirteenth position, sound like a song of love and hope coloured utopia which condenses the invisibility of lives which are here and then are no longer here from the effervescence of an aviary where chirpings and warbling intersect (from Raphael Imbert, Urs Leimgruber, McPhee, Evan Parker and John Tchicai each sax seeming to seek its place in the mosaic puzzle of the memory) to promising flighty duels, then to a fine line drawn trio – of shivering brass (Cappozo), woody reed (Kassap) and simmering percussion (Rollet) – progressively repeating – pounding towards an exacerbation of a growling or a gentle explosion, a prelude to a dance of words like as many sparks (Dalachinsky) roped together con arco and solemn pizzicatos (Léandres, Phillips). Thundering alternations of the funeral echoes of the talking drums of Ramon Lopez and the deep melodies of a Portal who from 1976 (in Chateauvallon) paid homage to aylerian Angels – placed here, the trio of the basque musician with Lopez and Phillips seems to preface the outburst of husky lyricism of his instrumental counterpart (Avenel-Mcphee-Goubert ), then, as if to underline McPhee’s multi- instrumental expertise, the latter was to engage with Cappozzo in a gay dialogue of trumpeters, a mixture of muffled pistons, effects of breathing and brass tirades with scents of a mini-fanfare. Logically it’s a sort of “duo” that follows: a dialogue with himself, by the saxophonist Evan Parker by means of the virtuosity of circular breathing permitting as always this fascinating diphonism. As for the penultimate phases of this polyphonic hirsutism, fortified by explosions, whirlwinds, chants, howls, bubblings and very high pitched sounds, everything happens as if the last cry recalled, as in a trance, a certain aylerien spirit – did not Robert Schumann write “Music is what permits us to speak with the heavens”.’
Then straight on to Paolo Botti s myspace page which has four tracks from his Ayler tribute CD, Angels and Ghosts, including ‘Angels’ and ‘Ghosts’, as well as ‘Truth Is Marching In’ and ‘Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen’ performed on viola, banjo and dobro.
And finally, news of a forthcoming film about Henry Grimes from the Kickstarter site. The Life and Death and Life of Henry Grimes is a documentary project by Hank Cherry, and according to the site, funding has been raised and, judging by the short clip on there, filming has already begun.
And finally, thanks to Yair Dagan who dug up all of this stuff, apart from the 13 Miniatures, for which I used my own little internet shovel.
August 1 2012
Let’s Sing For Him (A March for Albert Ayler) - the long version
On 7th December 1970, just twelve days after the discovery of Albert Ayler’s body in the East River, John Stevens organised the musicians at the Baden-Baden Free Jazz Meeting and performed a tribute to Ayler entitled ‘Let’s Sing For Him (A March in Memory of Albert Ayler)’ (available on this site). What I didn’t know (until Yair Dagan told me) was that Stevens recorded a much longer version of the piece on 7th May 1971 at the Notre Dame Hall in London, which was released on CD in 1993.
Full details and a review are available on the allmusic site and the 21 minute track is also available on youtube.
Black Lion mp3s
Things were a lot simpler in the olden days when I started this site. I used to do a monthly update of which Ayler CDs were available at a number of internet stores, but then things got complicated. Stores closed down, Amazon started its marketplace, mp3s became the in thing, pirates ruled the waves. Now, if you’re willing to don the eyepatch and parrot, everything Ayler recorded can be found somewhere, but for those seeking legitimate downloads I thought I should mention that the four CDs released on the Black Lion label, My Name Is Albert Ayler, Witches and Devils, Goin’ Home, and Ghosts (aka Vibrations) are now available on mp3 from amazon.com (though not co.uk). Details of these early Ayler works (only one of which, Witches and Devils, seems to be available on CD - shame) can be found on the 1201music site, along with the rest of the Black Lion catalogue.
I thought I should add a section to the Bibliography to account for all the odd poems about Ayler which are scattered around in books, magazines, websites, youtube and the rest. It’s by no means complete, but I will add things as I find them. One sad thing that I came across concerns The Magic Poetry Band, whose CD I mentioned last December since it contained a tribute to Albert Ayler. The performer of that poem and saxophonist with the band, Faruq Z Bey, died at the beginning of June, aged 70. There’s a new video/slideshow accompanying the track on youtube, but rather than embed it here, I thought it better to just add a link to the page since it includes more information about Faruq Z. Bey and some links to other items. There’s also an obituary on the Detroit metrotimes site.
I thought I’d put this here, Dean Bowman and L. Bardaine plus children’s chorus (I know, you’re going to skip it, but don’t), performing “Here Is To You Albert Ayler” at the Banlieues Bleues festival in France on 21st March 2007.
And, if that’s too sweet and you fancy a bit of Ayler played on the baritone sax, here’s the Tongues of Fire Trio rendering ‘New Ghosts’ at the Brewhouse Arts Centre, Taunton on 8th July 2007 (with what I choose to believe is a subtle nod to New York Eye and Ear Control).
Another Yair Dagan find, and although there’s not a lot of Ayler content in this one, I’m glad he passed it along. Jan Ström, founder of Ayler Records, and a useful source of information in the early days of this site, has a great site:
The Ayler material, of course, is limited to his association with Cecil Taylor in the first part of the sessionography but there’s a wealth of other information on the site, some wonderful photos and a great video of the Cecil Taylor Quartet in Paris in 1966. Plus, as a bonus, there’s a picture of Jan Ström on the home page - nice to put a face to the name after all these years.
The all about jazz site named Albert its Jazz Musician of the Day on July 13th - which I think it does every year, but if you click on the ‘read more’ link it’ll take you to their Ayler page which, along with a few photos and a biography, has a list of all the reviews and articles about Ayler on the site.
And congratulations to Sean Wilkie who managed to get the BBC’s regular Saturday evening programme, ‘Jazz Record Requests’ to play the first ‘Ghosts’ from Spiritual Unity on Saturday, 14th July. More than I could ever get them to do. He deserves a tankard.
Or maybe even a parking sign.
September 1 2012
I must thank Roy Morris (of Homeboy Music) for sending me this review from the January 1965 edition of Jazz Monthly of the Albert Ayler Quartet at the Sheherazade Club in Amsterdam on 6th November 1964. I think we get so used to reading new reviews and articles about Ayler that we tend to forget how his music must have sounded to people nearly fifty years ago. I think this review, by Michael James, really captures that ‘shock of the new’. I’ve placed it in the Concert Reviews section of the Archives, but if you click the picture below you’ll get a readable version.
And although it’s not from Jazz Monthly, here’s a photo of the band at the Sheherazade in November 1964.
Inside Out In The Open
And here’s a photo (which Richard Koloda came across) of Don Ayler and his father, Edward, at a screening of Alan Roth’s documentary about Free Jazz, Inside Out In The Open, at the Cleveland Cinematheque on 16th November, 2001.
Rehearsal, Tributes and a Dance
These are all from youtube. First, the dance - a short montage from the 1986 Karole Armitage ballet, The Elizabethan Phrasing of the Late Albert Ayler, which I’ve had listed on the Tributes page for years, so it’s nice now to see a bit of it.
Then there’s a rather long (36 mins) compilation of video and photos of the rehearsal for the performance of Alan Silva’s ‘Bells of Sant’ Anna’, which was performed in August 2010 at the Sant’ Anna Arresi Jazz Festival in Sardinia, which was dedicated that year to ‘The Holy Ghost and the Infinite Spirit of Albert Ayler’.
There’s also a tribute to Albert by trumpeter Demian Richardson and his band, recorded on 13th July this year. But, my particular favourite, is this performance by New Zealand band, The Spoilers of Utopia, of ‘The Truth Is Marching In’ at the Auckland War Museum on ANZAC day (25th April) this year. Check out the experimental camera work.
October 1 2012
The First Recordings Volume 3?
Mats Gustafsson wrote to clear up one of those little mysteries of the Ayler discography - the existence of a third volume of The First Recordings. My summing up of the situation ran as follows:
“The Jeff Schwartz biography lists 4 more titles - 2 alternate takes of ‘Softly As In A Morning Sunrise’, ‘Lover Man’ and ‘Everything Happens To Me’ - and credits ‘Raben 1989’ for the discographical information. The Mike Hames 1983 discography does not mention a third volume. According to Jan Strom of Ayler Records in Sweden, Bengt Nordström (the producer of the session) told him that everything that was recorded had been issued on Volumes 1 and 2.”
This has now been confirmed by Mats, who wrote: “I was also talking with Bengt about a vol 3.and my understanding of that talk was: vol. 1 is as is. vol. 2 is the 3 pieces version (minus moanin). vol. 3 is vol 2 + moanin (the four track version).”
Mats also said that the original versions of Volume 2 and 3 only existed as test pressings, between 5 and 10 of each. And that he’d also heard of a Japanese package which included all three volumes, although he couldn’t confirm that.
So, thanks to Mats, and I should leave it there, but I did start to wonder who owned the rights to The First Recordings and whether there was any possibility of a single CD version of the entire session, since the running time is just 71 minutes. Although Volume 1 has been issued on a Sonet CD, this hasn’t been available since this site went online and Volume 2 has only been available as an expensive Japanese import on the DIW label. At which point I realised that The First Recordings (under its various names and volumes) was recorded in October 1962 and, as such, should soon be out of copyright. The one thing I thought I knew about copyright law was the 50 year rule regarding recordings. Turns out I was wrong. There have been a number of jazz recordings from the late 50s turning up on amazon in either nice 4 LP packages by Avid, or strange, just chuck 8 old LPs in a box, versions and I assumed this would continue. However, thanks to Sir Cliff Richard, the law was changed last year in Britain to bring it into line with Europe and the copyright on recordings has now been extended to 70 years. Apparently a similar change in the law was effected in America a while ago by the late Sonny Bono, and there the copyright lasts for 95 years. So, I guess the likes of Avid and the ‘chuck’em in a box’ companies will soon cease their activities. There’s a short article from September last year on The Guardian site about the change, followed by a long discussion about the implications in the comments section (including a side-debate about whether Jools Holland can be described as a ‘famous jazz pianist’).
And I’m afraid that’s about it for this month. The dearth of new Ayler material is epitomised by this (I wouldn’t bother, there aren’t even any walking women to spoil the minimalist mood). And all I got round to adding to the site is an article from The Village Voice of August 7th 1978, prompted by the release of The Village Concerts, entitled ‘Albert Ayler as Angel of History’ by Richard Mortifoglio.
November 1 2012
John Tchicai 28/4/1936 - 8/10/2012
John Tchicai, one of the giants of the Free Jazz movement of the 1960s, died on the 8th October. His main connection with Albert Ayler is, of course, the 1964 ESP album, New York Eye and Ear Control, which Ekkehard Jost called “probably the most important link between the epoch-making collective improvisation Free Jazz by the Ornette Coleman double quartet, and John Coltrane’s Ascension.”
Although that album is the only recorded connection between Ayler and Tchicai, the two musicians had met, and played together, earlier in their careers, during Albert’s time in Scandinavia. There’s a fascinating interview with Tchicai on his website, which I may have mentioned before, but here’s the bit that relates to those early days:
“Oppro:Had you met and played with Albert Ayler prior to playing the Helsinki and Warsaw Festivals? JT: Yeah -- I don't remember exactly the first time I met him, but we often hung out together at the Montmartre Jazzhus at some of those heavy evenings with the touring American superstars. We also spent time together at a restaurant called Vingaarden, where he'd come and sit-in with us when we played there every Sunday afternoon. Oppro:Were you taken aback by his playing style? JT: No, no -- I wasn't surprised by his style, but I was impressed by the big sound he had and the intensity of his spirit. He was such a quiet guy when he wasn't at the bandstand, but as soon as he started playing, he let out with this big sound -- it was fantastic. And then to have Sonny Murray sit-in with us and Albert was a real treat. Oppro:Did playing in this setting prompt you to play more freely? JT: I think so; it's not that I had to ask anyone to play freer because we definitely had the freedom to play how we wanted in this group. But I do think the setting opened up possibilities for everyone to explore the concept of free playing. Oppro:Was Ayler generally respected in the jazz scene in Copenhagen? JT: No, I think they looked at him as a kind of curiosity. They viewed him as a strange guy that dressed in strange cloths and wore a funny-looking black and gray beard. The professional Bebop musicians in town thought of Ayler as a kind of musical heretic.”
More information about John Tchicai is available on his website where you’ll find the full interview. Among the obituaries, John Fordham’s in The Guardian(with a fascinating afterword by Val Wilmer) and Ben Ratliff’s in The New York Times are well worth reading.
One of my favourite jazz LPs is John Tchicai’s Cadentia Nova Danica from 1968 - currently unavailable, of course - but the three tracks from Side 1 are on the Destination Out site. If you’ve never heard it, I suggest you give ‘Inside Thule’ a try - a gloriously unique sound.
There are a number of video clips on youtube of John Tchicai, but I like this one, especially since there’s a nod in there to Ayler.
And talking of the BBC - a brief snatch of Albert Ayler was played on primetime, Saturday night television the other week as part of a programme celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. Broadcast on BBC2 on 6th October, Arena: the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour Revisited included a short segment where Paul McCartney describes an experimental film he made in France with a soundtrack of Ayler playing La Marseillaise. However, since I was never a big Beatles’ fan, I didn’t watch it. Luckily, my friend, Clive Buttle did, and what’s more he had the technology to provide me with the relevant clip. Unfortunately youtube won’t touch it, so the link below will have to suffice:
And talking of experimental films and harking back to New York Eye and Ear Control, Yair Dagan (glad you’re back) let me know about another film about Michael Snow which is available on vimeo. Michael Snow Up Close is a 45 minute documentary by Jim Shedden and Alexa-Frances Shaw, made in 1994 to document the Michael Snow Project at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Although there are lots of walking women and clips from some of Snow’s films, there’s no mention of Albert Ayler, and nothing from New York Eye and Ear Control, but it’s still worth a watch. Although, if you do get a bit fed up with the artiness of it all and wish to remain on the vimeo site, might I suggest this as a suitable antidote.
Ideally, this would come with a video, but so far all we have is a review. The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost: Albert Ayler was performed at Oberlin College on 12th and 13th October, 2012. The concluding part of a trilogy (the first two devoted to Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane), performed by Dance Diaspora and Essence, choreographed by Adenike Sharpley:
“Ayler’s music provided the soundscape for the dance concert’s highlighted form, black expressionist dance, which Sharpley describes as “a form that does not concentrate on long lines of the arms, such as in Western dance forms. Rather the focus of the dance is on the expression of feeling through movement. The dancers become part of the orchestra and their bodies are considered instruments. “What was seen in this show was the ‘emotional-movement’ and reaction of the dancer to the music,” says Sharpley.
The shows featured Cleveland-based tenor saxophonist and flutist Al Rollins and the soprano saxophone and flute of Ralph Jones, director of African Heritage House, who also was the show’s musical director. They were joined by 2004 graduate Marion Parker on bass and students from the conservatory’s jazz program: saxophonists DeSean Jones, a senior, and Malachi Thomas, a junior; first-year bassist Christopher Freedman, drummers Zaire Darden and Zane Rodulpho, both seniors; and pianist Shea Pierre, a junior.”
And finally ...
A couple of tributes (spotted by Yair, as was the item above):
And a new CD by The Whammies called The Music of Steve Lacy, which features tributes to various artists, including the third track, ‘The Wire (to Albert Ayler)’, which you can hear on the bandcamp site.
December 1 2012
Donald Ayler Sings
Richard Koloda has been working on his biography of Albert Ayler for a number of years now and I’m happy to report it’s nearing completion. Back in October 2001 Richard filmed an interview with Don Ayler and his father, Edward, in Cleveland. During the interview, on a couple of occasions, Don started singing. Now, with Richard’s permission, and through the technical expertise of Clive Buttle, I have managed to put the four minute clip on youtube. So, here it is:
A Very Ayler Christmas
Nice to know that the good old Christmas traditions continue. Over here in England we’ll all be roasting chestnuts on an open fire whilst gathering winter fuel, whereas in the colonies (Canada, to be exact) Bernard Stepien will be performing his Aylerised Christmas carols again, as he explains in the following email:
Bernard Stepien Orchestra - A Very Ayler Christmas - the Tradition
This year, we caught several people, usually non-musicians, who were convinced that Omega is the Alpha, Ghosts, Bells, and many others, all Albert Ayler compositions, were true Christmas Carols and even subconsciously started to sing them by the Christmas tree. Well, for us, this almost sounds like mission accomplished. The concept of mashing up Albert Ayler with Christmas Carols has over the last half dozen of years of concerts slowly wound up into a well-accepted tradition. in fact, a few days ago, I realized that I was indeed a fool because after all of these efforts to find matches between the two repertoires and writing the mash-ups, taking fragments from both repertoires and combining them together, I found out that it was already there all the time. For the last 50 years, everybody had already noticed that Albert Ayler’s art consisted in combining spirituals with military music. Few, noticed that some of the spirituals were Christmas carols. In fact, Albert Ayler did the reverse process. He took Christmas Carols and transfused them in his own composition by adding, enhancing, modifying them with his own musical concepts giving them a total new perspective. Upon the release of our first CD, critics were unanimous in saying that this was the CD Ayler would have loved to make. What we all missed is that not only the fact that it was already there but also that Albert Ayler was a marketing genius. By not saying anything to anybody, Ayler could play his music year round, especially at those fantastic European summer Jazz festivals. On our side, we are stuck playing our repertoire at Christmas time only. Well, at least we got a review right in the middle of the summer this year: "We all have our highlights; mine was the Bernard Stepien Orchestra’s holy morph of Albert Ayler and Christmas carols last December.", Lawrence Joseph, CULT#MTL august 2012
Thus, don't miss one of the following dates: December 13th, 8 pm, at the Artel in Kingston December 16th, 7 pm, at the UMI cafe, IMOO series in Ottawa
This year with the following band: Bernard Stepien, tenor saxophone, arrangements Linsey Wellman, alto saxophone, bass clarinet Craig Pedersen, trumpet, piccolo trumpet Jennifer Giles, piano Philippe Charbonneau, bass Scott Waren, drums & percussion
And here’s another tradition, the Henry Grimes New Year’s Eve concert in New York. Details (thanks Margaret) as follows:
“Monday, Dec. 31st (New Year's Eve), 2O12, 11 p.m: Marc Ribot’s Spiritual Unity, w/ Henry Grimes, Roy Campbell, Jr., & Chad Taylor, Albert Ayler’s “Bells” at Midnight, at the Stone, northwest corner of Ave. C & 2nd St., Manhattan (NYC), $4O includes traditional champagne toast at midnight (preceded by a special surprise show at 7 p.m. to be announced, separate admission charge), no phone, no advance ticket sales or reservations, so please be there early. Take the F train to 2nd Ave., use 1st Ave. exit, and walk east to Ave. C, or the M-9 or M-21 bus to the corner of Houston St. and Ave. C. NOTE: This year’s New Year’s Eve concert recommendations list isn’t out yet, but Ben Ratliff wrote this in last year’s New York Times, recommending the group’s second annual New Year’s Eve celebration at the Stone: ‘Marc Ribot is a rough-magic guitar improviser whose sound and touch go perfectly with the songs of Albert Ayler, which are like hymns and marches set afire. And that is the brief of Spiritual Unity, a quartet convened for special occasions, with the trumpeter Roy Campbell, Ayler bassist Henry Grimes, and the drummer Chad Taylor.’”
Thanks to Marco Grossi, who let me know that he’d heard from Hat Hut Records that they’re planning to re-release Lörrach-Paris 1966in January/February 2013. It’ll be good to have it back in the catalogue alongside Hat Hut’s Stockholm, Berlin 1966.
A Couple of CDs
Now all the other items this month come from Yair Dagan - I thought the Don Ayler clip was enough and I could let the rest slide. First off, two new CDs which deserve a mention. The first is a double CD Ayler tribute album from Eugene Chadbourne - Doc Chad Ayler - which is available from the Squidco site. Here’s the blurb:
“Doc Chad arranges and performs a vital section of the Albert Ayler songbook in a 2-CD release featuring solo settings to a quintet with musicians including Charles Tyler, Massimo Pupillo, Ted Reichman, Joe Williamson, &c. Ayler tunes covered include 4 versions of “Ghosts”, 2 of “Prophecy”, 2 of “Witches and Devils”, plus “Change Has Come”, “Truth Comes Marching In”, &c. Eugene Chadbourne is an extremely informed jazz historian, and his arrangements of these classic U.S. free jazz compositions represent a unique take on an important artist whose voice still resonates with modern improvised music. Recommended for all Ayler fans!”
And here’s the tracklist:
CD 1 1. Omega Is The Alpha 9:46 2. Ghosts 10:44 3. Prophecy 7:03 4. La Marseillese 7:16 5. Prophecy 9:42 6. Ghosts 4:20 7. Infinite Spirit 8:00 8. Light in the Darkness 9:15 9. Change Has Come 8:55
CD 2 1. Witches and Devils 8:36 2. Spirits 5:19 3. Ghosts 8:59 4. Ghosts 5:27 5. Witches and Devils 7:22 6. The Father The Son The Holy Ghost 8:26 7. Truth Comes Marching In 8:26
Personnel details and a few sound clips are available on the Squidco site.
The other CD is Surreality by Dave Liebman and Lewis Porter, with special guest, Marc Ribot, and contains one Ayler-related track - ‘Omega is the Alpha/Ghosts’. There’s a review by John Fordham on The Guardian website.
Albert Ayler tribute mixtape thing
This is a bit of a weird one - it’s a kind of Albert Ayler tribute mixtape thing, which runs for 2 hours, but there’s some interesting stuff on there. Probably best to let it run in the background while you get on with something else.
The Elizabethan Phrasing of the Late Albert Ayler
I love the way this rather obscure, but wonderfully titled, ballet from 1986 keeps turning up. Back in September I mentioned a brief video had appeared on youtube (it should still be down below) and now Yair has unearthed these two items. The first is listed on the artvalue.com site as ‘Artwork for Albert Ayler Poster’ by David Salle, who designed the sets and costumes for the 1986 performance of The Elizabethan Phrasing of the Late Albert Ayler. Considering the little picture in the top right-hand corner of every page on this site, I find it rather spooky.
And the other is this rather fetching photo of Karole Armitage, the choreographer of The Elizabethan Phrasing of the Late Albert Ayler.
And that’s it for another year. Thanks to all who’ve contributed to the site during the last 12 months, and all the very best for the festive season. Barring accidents (or major news stories) I’ll be back in 2013.
December 18 2012
A Very Ayler Christmas - update
Just a quick update. Bernard Stepien sent me a link to an mp3 of his first Ayler Christmas concert this year (details below). It was recorded and mixed by Matt Rogalsky / Memory Device, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. So many thanks to him and to Bernard, and a Joyeux Noël to one and all.