Pierre Crépon came across the following information in an interview with Noah Howard (“Noah Howard from New Orleans” by Laurent Goddet, Jazz Hot, April 1976, pp. 19-21) which seems to indicate the other musicians involved in the 1968 session for Leroi Jones’ (Amiri Baraka’s) Jihad label, which was never released. Pierre translated the relevant section:
“Howard: [...] As for Bobby Few, he arrived in New York at about the same time as Frank [Wright], in late 1965/early 1966.
Goddet: At this time, you also recorded for [LeRoi] Jones’ label, Jihad?
Howard: No, this recording took place a little bit later, around 1968. Don Pullen, Don Ayler, Reggie Workman, Norris Jones (Sirone), Muhammad [Ali] and myself took part... I guess [LeRoi] Jones still has the tapes. At this time, he was trying to launch his own record label, which I think only issued a single album, under Sunny Murray’s name.”
This may only be of academic interest, since we don’t know whether the tape of the session still exists. However, following Amiri Baraka’s death last January, work is ongoing cataloguing his vast archive of material, so, let’s hope it turns up. Earlier last year a half-hour film of his, The New-Ark (also from 1968) was discovered in the Harvard Film Archive, restored and shown in Newark in April, so, you never know.
The Elizabethan Phrasing of the Late Albert Ayler
is a title I will never tire of typing. There’s an exhibition of sets and costumes from the Karole Armitage dance company at Mana Contemporary’s Glass Gallery in Jersey City, New Jersey, running until 31st March, 2015.
Which you can take as an indication of how little Ayler news there is this month, or maybe just the fact that Christmas was particularly busy this year and I’ve just come down with the dreaded man-flu. So, I’ll leave you with a video of Alan Silva and The Tradition Trio (Silva on synthesizer, Johannes Bauer, trombone and Roger Turner, drums) recorded at the Jazzatelier Ulrichsberg, Austria on 13th December, 2014:
and hope that I’ll be able to see things a little more clearly next month. The last news page of 2014 (July to December) has now been added to the archives.
February 1 2015
Sonny’s Time Now
Real news at last, thanks to Steve Holtje (ESP-Disk' Label Manager), who let me know that ESP are planning to reissue Sonny’s Time Now. Originally issued on Amiri Baraka’s Jihad label, subsequently exiled to Japan, this is probably the least well-known of Ayler’s albums. In fact, of course, it’s not technically an ‘Ayler album’, he’s just a sideman on a Sunny Murray session, or maybe one should say an Amiri Baraka (aka Leroi Jones) session. When the LP was reviewed in the British magazine, Jazz Monthly, it was Baraka’s recitation of his poem, ‘Black Art’, which caused a minor controversy and fueled the belief in some quarters that Ayler was part of the political wing of the Free Jazz movement. ESP should be congratulated for bringing it back into the fold after all these years and making it more widely available and it will be interesting to see what reviewers make of it now.
Here’s the Press Release from ESP:
ESP-Disk' 50th Anniversary Redux
ESP-Disk' heads into the third year of its 50th anniversary full of the kind of fresh optimism that only a switch in distributors can bring. Yes, as of February our North American physical distribution will be handled exclusively by Forced Exposure.
About that third year of our 50th anniversary thing. We're not joking. In 1963, Bernard Stollman founded the label to issue an album of songs in Esperanto, and then near the end of that year had his mind blown by Albert Ayler in concert and determined to record him as soon as possible. That's why we celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2013. ASAP turned out to be July 1964, when Spiritual Unity was laid down in a small studio in Times Square. That's why we celebrated our 50th anniversary again in 2014. Determined to make a splash with the label, Bernard stockpiled recordings and then released a dozen at once in 1965, which was the first time anybody but Esperanto devotees heard of ESP-Disk'. Thus, we will once again be celebrating our 50th anniversary again in 2015.
Just as we did 50 years ago, we plan to make a big splash and have planned a quite extensive release schedule for 2015. Will I be telling the world all about it in advance? Ha! I learned my lesson on that one. In 2013 I put out a press release in February announcing our plans for our first 50th anniversary. About half of it actually happened, and at least five albums not mentioned in that press release were issued or reissued that year.
However, I am 99% confident that all of the albums on the following schedule will be released this year, perhaps even in the same months in which they're currently listed to appear:
Headwall by Extremely Serious Business (first release) Serious Business by John D. Thomas (first CD and download release of an album originally released on Nabel in Germany) ESB is a John D. Thomas-led band, which is why we're releasing these two simultaneously. They're both full of fusion goodness. Okay, I know you don't think "fusion" when ESP is involved, BUT: 1) since when have we cared about genres and categories?; 2) he's a guitarist's guitarist with a decades-long career playing with everybody from Joe Henderson to Charles Tolliver and a second career as a respected music educator and author. CDs and downloads.
The Uppercut: Live at Okuden by Matthew Shipp Mat Walerian Duo (first release) Mr. Shipp is the most exciting pianist of his generation. Mr. Walerian is a Polish saxophonist/clarinetist flutist of extraordinary talent who deserves a world-wide audience. We are extremely proud to be putting out this profoundly beautiful and imaginative concert performance. CD and download.
Sonny's Time Now by Sonny Murray (first U.S. reissue) Another great who needs no introduction, here working with a dream band of Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Henry Grimes, and Louis Worrell, plus poet Leroi Jones AKA Amiri Baraka. We are licensing directly from Mr. Murray this legendary 1965 album, originally released on Baraka's label Jihad and long unavailable (and when it was reissued, it was only in Japan). CD, vinyl, and download.
Further than that I dare not predict, but in general we will be trying to get as many of our classics out on vinyl as we can afford to press, and we aim to get even more of our catalog out via download than we already have, in addition to doing the first U.S. CD releases of some deep-catalog classics.
- Steve Holtje
Max Harrison’s review of Sonny’s Time Now in Jazz Monthly, and a subsequent letter throwing some light on the circumstances of its recording, are available here. The original mimeographed insert which accompanied the Jihad release is also available on the Sonny’s Time Now Covers page.
And talking of covers - I’ve added a few photos to the Nuits de la Fondation MaeghtCovers page, including the booklet of the CD reissue on the Water label.
Nineteen+: Conversations with Jazz Musicians, New York City, 1964-1965
Pierre Crépon put me onto this: Nineteen+: Conversations with Jazz Musicians, New York City, 1964-1965 by Garth W Caylor Jr. Available from amazon (according to Pierre through a “print-on-demand service after remaining unpublished for nearly 50 years”, which makes one despair) the book features interviews with the following musicians: Jaki Byard, Roger Kellaway, Jerome Richardson, Zoot Sims & Al Cohn, Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall, Art Farmer, Steve Swallow, Milford Graves, Bill Evans, Frank Foster, Steve Lacy, John Tchicai, Jimmy Giuffre, Ornette Coleman, Lee Konitz, Sunny Murray, Archie Shepp and Paul & Carla Bley. Only the Steve Lacy interview has been published elsewhere (in Jason Weiss’ compilation of Lacy interviews) and although Ayler is not on the list, Pierre sent me a scan of the following photo which is printed in the Steve Swallow interview:
Holiday For A Graveyard
Now I was sure I’d put this on the site somewhere, but I can’t find it so here it is (maybe again). John Coltrane requested that two musicians should play at his funeral, Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman. Ayler’s contribution was finally released in the Holy Ghost box, but this was a cleaned-up version, and since, for some reason I prefer the dirtier article, it’s available in the Music section of the site. The recording of Ornette Coleman’s contribution - ‘Holiday for a Graveyard’ - was released in 1969 on Bob Thiele Emergency - Head Start on the Flying Dutchman label. Now it’s popped up on youtube, so here it is. Recorded at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, New York, on 21st July, 1967 - Ornette Coleman (as), David Izenzon and Charlie Haden (b), Charles Moffett (d).
At one end of the Record Industry ...
There’s an interesting album just released by NoBusiness Records which deserves a mention. ‘Innerconnection’ by Ted Daniel’s Energy Module.
Recorded on 8th November, 1975 by Ted Daniel (trumpet, flugelhorn, French hunting horn, Moroccan bugle), Daniel Carter (tenor saxophone), Oliver Lake (alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, piccolo, cow bell), Richard Pierce (bass) and Tatsuya Nakamura (drums, quarter drums), it features a 15 minute version of ‘Ghosts’. Full details are available on the NoBusiness site and there are reviews on The Quietus (which describes the version of ‘Ghosts’ as “incredible, with the players communing with the spirits over 15 ecstatic minutes”) and Volcanic Tongue.
and at the other ...
I’ve come across four more versions of My Name Is Albert Ayler available for download at amazon:
I still don’t get it. In fact, it gets worse. If you search for ‘As a chameleon’ on amazon it throws up 65 albums, from artists as diverse as Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Giuffre, Helen Shapiro and Mantovani. I get that for some reason these are all out of copyright and I have to remember that this site was started because a mate of mine bought two copies of Live at Slug’s Saloon, neither of which was called Live at Slug’s Saloon, so presumably this is just an updated version of the scam for the digital age, but I do find it weird. So much so that I must retire to my quiet place and repeat my personal mantra, “The Elizabethan Phrasing of the Late Albert Ayler”.
And finally ...
And sometimes we seek for answers in the cosmos. Chris Wolter emailed to say that his daughter made the comment while looking at the cover of Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe “That looks just like Star Wars!” Chris goes on to speculate “Albert Ayler, ‘the Force.’ Albert Ayler, ‘The Universe.’ Same colored lettering! Can you get any more ahead of your time than that? What does this all mean? George Lucas, as the jazz fan? Graphic art theft? Jazz culture vs. pop culture?” Or maybe it’s our old friend, coincidence. Still, as a chameleon, I offer these images, make of them what you will:
March 1 2015
Last month I mentioned Nineteen+: Conversations with Jazz Musicians, New York City, 1964-1965 by Garth Caylor, which contained a photo of Albert and Don Ayler, with Albert’s daughter. I asked Garth if he had any more photos of the Ayler brothers, and any more information about their meeting (unfortunately he didn’t interview them for his book). He kindly sent me a couple of contact prints (he’s searching for the negatives) and this account:
“The several pictures I took of the Aylers were from an afternoon visit which I hoped would be a prelude to a longer visit - which never happened. We watched an outdoor neighborhood basketball game while chatting for about an hour. I liked them as a family as we guys were about the same age and my daughter was about the same age as Albert’s, all of us ‘new’ to New York. I wish I could remember more things, specifically, but no.
My meeting with the Aylers was singular and brief. I regard it as another lost opportunity, maybe I failed to be persistent, etc. I do recall that it was labor to find-contact-schedule-travel-tape and photo-transcribe-type-edit, and many encounters were not successful for various reasons. Too much noise with quiet Tommy Flanagan. Interruptions with Teddy Charles. Never could capture Roswell Rudd. Clark Terry and I laughed the whole tape because he talked uninterrupted ‘scat’. Long time ago!”
I must thank Alfie Cooke who sent me an article on Ayler by Martin Cowlyn which was published in the second issue of The Professional in February, 1974. Usually, at this point, I would just add a link to the Articles section where I’ve put it, but I thought I’d add it here as well. Maybe it’s just nostalgia. The Professional (edited by Owen Peterson) was a duplicated (mimeographed) magazine and I spent much of the 70s and 80s churning out similar magazines and posters and fliers, first on an acoustic Gestetner duplicator where you had to turn the handle, then an electric model, where you had to keep a constant watch on the thing to see if it was printing properly. This was in the days before personal computers and printers, and way before the internet. But Cowlyn’s article is also interesting since it provides a snapshot of the state of Ayler’s reputation (or rather, lack of it) in the mid-70s, here in the U.K. The brief discography at the end of the article (which also gives a good idea of the number of Ayler albums which were released posthumously) closes with the rather poignant statement: “There are no Albert Ayler LPs currently available on English issues.”
I did have a quick google for Martin Cowlyn since the name was unfamiliar to me but all I turned up was another article, this time about Jimmy Witherspoon in Blues-Link 4.
We now delve into the minutiae of matters discographical, so bear with me. I always thought that the original release of Prophecy was on the Italian Base Record label and made that claim in a quite cavalier fashion in the Discography. Last week I received an email from Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg saying that he had a copy of the original American ESP release of Prophecy and he could send me some photos. I was going to write back and display my superior knowledge, but, luckily, I decided to check it out first and everywhere else, the Italian release was listed as a reissue. My mistake was due to several reasons. The fact I bought my copy of the Italian version at a local record fair sometime in the mid-80s and I’d never come across any mention of the LP anywhere, the fact that Prophecy is ESP 3030 and ESP 3031 and 3032 are the two volumes of Live at Slug’s Saloon, which were originally released by Base, and were also taken from ‘audience recordings’, and the fact that ESP ceased trading in 1975 and the licence to issue their catalogue then drifted round various companies in Europe for the next 30 years. So, I put the facts together and came to an assumption which was wrong. Mea culpa. Prophecy must have been one of the last records ESP produced in America before their enforced retirement, and, according to Jean-Michel: “It was issued as a US ESP and then also as a Japanese ESP around the same time. This Prophecy album was very badly distributed and I didn’t read of didn’t see any review of this album. Indeed while they issued this, ESP closed down. It wasn’t even included in discographies printed by magazines.”
So, sorry if I’ve confused anybody out there. Jean-Michel’s photos of the original release of the LP are on the Prophecy Covers page.
Jean-Michel originally contacted me about another ‘Ayler’ album - Sonny’s Time Now. He recently bought a version of this in a Brussels shop, which differs from the regular version with the red labels. His copy (which originated in the U.S and is not a European reissue) has a thin cardboard cover and white labels and he reckons it must be some kind of test pressing. Considering that original copies of Jihad 663 must be rarer than hen’s teeth by now, Jean-Michel’s copy must be rarer still. Photos available on the Sonny’s Time Now Covers page and many thanks to Jean-Michel.
I should also add that I came across some more Ayler record covers at CoverLib.com and added them to the site on the relevant pages. Perhaps the most significant one is a CD issue of New Grass with the original sleevenotes by John Szwed - sorry, still not convinced.
Fondation Maeght Photos
Steve Tintweiss posted the above photo from Ayler’s second concert at the Fondation Maeght on the Ayler Group page on facebook. This was then followed by a post from Ngoc Suong Gras with 12 photos taken by Philippe Gras at the Fondation Maeght. Now, I confess, I’m not sure how facebook works - i.e. whether you can access pages if you’re not a member - but here’s the link to the Ayler Group page and here’s a link to the 12 photos.
There’s an interesting interview with Joe McPhee by Kevin Whitehead on the Wondering Sound site which contains the following:
‘But McPhee was already deep into the avant-garde by the time he mustered out. He had gone to Copenhagen in ’64 looking for Albert Ayler. Back in New York he met Albert’s trumpeter brother Don in a record store; Don invited him to a rehearsal on the spot. “But I had to catch the train back to Poughkeepsie.”’
Two more Ghosts
Two more versions of ‘Ghosts’ have appeared on youtube. One by the Art Ensemble of Chicago is taken from a radio broadcast recorded at Fabrik in Hamburg, Germany on 14th July, 1987. The other is this more restrained affair by the Los Chacales Trio (Alfonso Muñoz - sax, Itzam Cano - bass and César Chew - drums) recorded at the Enanos Café Jam Sessions, 21st February, 2015, Cuautitlan Izcalli, México. Nice to see them follow the tradition of all Ayler-related videos on youtube by employing someone to walk in front of the band during the performance. This time it's the waiter (uncredited).
April 1 2015
The Fondation Maeght Film
Pierre Crépon just emailed to say that Albert Ayler: Le Dernier Concert was shown at the Fondation Maeght in March. Pierre only found out after the event so he’s (in the parlance) gutted at missing it. However he has found this blog by ‘Merzbo-Derek’ which contains some stills from the film and a very brief video. The relevant posts are scattered over the blog, so clicking the photos beneath will take you to the pages about the film.
Music Is The Healing Force. . .I
I came across this new version of ‘Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe’ on the Clash magazine site. The track, which is available on the site, is taken from a new album by Emanative called The Light Years of the Darkness and is described thus:
“An Albert Ayler signature piece, 'Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe' is a meditative work, one of the final pieces recorded by the feted saxophonist. Emanative pairs up with Earl Zinger and Valerie Etienne to tackle one of the cornerstone works in spiritual jazz, retaining the central message of Ayler's work but extending the sonics outward, into the 21st century. A lengthy, groove heavy piece, the languid atmospherics are matched against pirouetting woodwind and an electronic gospel sensibility. On, and there's a fair bit of skronk involved, too - this is an Albert Ayler work, after all.”
No, I don’t know what ‘skronk’ is.
Religious Imperatives, Boogaloo Rhythms: Taking another Listen to Albert Ayler’s New Grass
Continuing the religious theme, here’s an essay by Michael Kaler published in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture (University of Toronto Press; Vol. 25, No. 2, 2013). Pierre Crépon told me about it, but I have to say he was not that impressed, so it may be only of interest to fellow academics ploughing that particular furrow in the groves. The first page is available online, but the rest you have to pay for, unless you’re somehow affiliated. Here’s the abstract:
“In this article I discuss free jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler’s album New Grass, released in 1968. Although Ayler’s early works have entered the jazz canon, this album has been seen as the beginning of his decline and also as a sellout. I argue that by taking Ayler’s messianic religious convictions into account, we cannot only understand New Grass better but can also see how it fits into his career as a whole and widen our understanding of the ways in which religious convictions and experimental music interact.”
In Spite of the Tennis, the Facts are There
Pierre also sent me the link to this advert in The Daily Collegian of Pennsylvania State University (27 April, 1967 - p.6). He’d been unable to find any further information about the film and suggested I had a go. I also came up empty. Then Richard Rees Jones sent me the same ad and said he’d got nowhere. So now (echoing Ricardo Montalban) it taxes me. You get so used to finding things on the internet, that when the almighty google comes up with nothing, it niggles. So, here it is. A short film from the 1960s with a soundtrack by “Albert Ayler & Co.” (presumably just a track from one of his LPs) and a title taken from Waiting for Godot - the “Grand Prize - Angola Film Festival” I assume is a joke. Any information about the film or the director, Tyrone Goss, would be greatly appreciated.
Allen Blairman and tap dancing
Allen Blairman, drummer on the Fondation Maeght sessions, has been a rather shadowy figure in the Ayler story, so I was surprised to find a couple of clips on youtube. Blairman with the German saxophonist Olaf Schönborn playing 'Cheek to Cheek' and then this one when they are joined by the tap dancing Kurt Albert.
And then there were zombies
No, just another version of ‘Ghosts’ but with the added novelty of a cello. Recorded at theZombie Jazz Apocalypse at the Motorco Music Hall, Durham, North Carolina, August 1st, 2013, this is one of a series of jazz classics (including ‘All Blues’) performed by Zombies Ate My Jazz.
May 1 2015
Bernard Stollman (19/7/1929 - 20/4/2015)
Aside from family members and fellow musicians, several other figures crop up in the story of Albert Ayler. People like Bengt ‘Frippe’ Nordstrom who produced his first LP, and Daniel Caux who produced his last; writers like Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka and Paul Haines; journalists like Val Wilmer; but the most significant of these peripheral figures was Bernard Stollman, who passed away on 20th April at the age of 85. The story of the record label, ESP-disk, which Bernard Stollman started after hearing Albert Ayler play, and the recording of the session which would be released as the label’s second LP, Spiritual Unity, has passed into legend. Other records followed, not only Ayler’s (New York Eye and Ear Control, Bells, Spirits Rejoice) but the first releases of some of the great names of the Free Jazz movement. Bernard Stollman’s connection with Albert Ayler did not end there, of course. A lawyer by profession, after Albert’s death, Mr. Stollman became the executor of his estate. Other Ayler recordings made their way into the ESP catalogue: Prophecy, Live at Slug’s Saloon, and latterly, Live on the Riviera, The Hiversum Session and, more controversially, the Holy Ghost box set. 85 is a good age to go, so outside of friends and family, there’s no need to grieve Bernard Stollman’s passing, but, as Ayler fans, as fans of Free Jazz, we should take a moment to reflect on what he helped to give to our world.
A fascinating new book examining the links between jazz and religion has just been published by the Oxford University Press - Spirits Rejoice! Jazz and American Religion by Jason C. Bivins (Professor of Religious Studies at North Carolina State University and jazz guitarist). Given the title and the subject matter, it’s no surprise that there’s a section on Albert Ayler (part of which is available on the amazon preview), which also, rather appropriately, includes one of Guy Kopelowicz’s photos from the Spirits Rejoice recording session at Judson Hall. The description of the book on the OUP site is as follows:
“In Spirits Rejoice! Jason Bivins explores the relationship between American religion and American music, and the places where religion and jazz have overlapped.
Much writing about jazz tends toward glorified discographies or impressionistic descriptions of the actual sounds. Rather than providing a history, or series of biographical entries, Spirits Rejoice! takes to heart a central characteristic of jazz itself and improvises, generating a collection of themes, pursuits, reoccurring foci, and interpretations. Bivins riffs on interviews, liner notes, journals, audience reception, and critical commentary, producing a work that argues for the centrality of religious experiences to any legitimate understanding of jazz, while also suggesting that jazz opens up new interpretations of American religious history. Bivins examines themes such as musical creativity as related to specific religious traditions, jazz as a form of ritual and healing, and jazz cosmologies and metaphysics. Spirits Rejoice! connects Religious Studies to Jazz Studies through thematic portraits, and a vast number of interviews to propose a new, improvisationally fluid archive for thinking about religion, race, and sound in the United States. Bivins's conclusions explore how the sound of spirits rejoicing challenges not only prevailing understandings of race and music, but also the way we think about religion.
Spirits Rejoice! is an essential volume for any student of jazz, American religion, or American culture.”
Jason has also added some additional material online: a blog post about Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, soon to be followed by one on Charles Mingus. And there’s a chapter by chapter listening guide, with examples taken mainly from youtube, which should keep you going for a while.
“FIRE MUSIC is a feature-length documentary film currently in production that tells the definitive history of the Free Jazz revolution. Directed by Tom Surgal and produced by Dan Braun with Executive Producers Thurston Moore and Nels Cline.
There has never been a filmic attempt to tell the full story of Free Jazz. Ken Burns’ otherwise exhaustive documentary Jazz breezes over the whole subject as if it was a mere afterthought. FIRE MUSIC is intended to be that missing link that will set the story straight. We will preserve the history of a criminally ignored art form that has gone cinematically undocumented for far too long.”
There’s more information on the Fire Music site and the production team are planning a kickstarter campaign to raise funds to complete the film, so you may be able to help. Here’s the trailer:
The Fondation Maeght Film
And talking of films, ‘Merzbo-Derek’ has added another page to his blog, featuring photos of the end credits of the Fondation Maeght film.
New Ghosts in Cleveland
‘New Ghosts’ is a Cleveland-based initiative to bring avant-garde jazz back to Albert Ayler’s birthplace. They’re on facebook (naturally) and two of the founders of the organisation, Tom Orange and Andy Auten, gave a radio interview explaining the origins and aims of the project. One rather depressing point they make is the total lack of recognition for Albert Ayler in his home town.
Last month we had a version of ‘Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe’ by Emanative, this month it’s the turn of Bardo Pond who feature a 12 minute version on their new EP, Is There A Heaven?, released on Fire Records. According to a review on the DOA site:
‘The A-side’s acid-rock rendition of Roxy Music’s already doom-laced “In Every Dream Home A Heartache” is a reliably redemptive slow-burning epic across 14 or so minutes, whilst on the flipside Albert Ayler’s cosmic jazz epic “Music Is the Healing Force Of The Universe” is reworked to fit Bardo Pond’s most punishingly heavy-psyche side remarkably well.’
And finally ...
For those of us who revere the bass saxophone, something rather special - Deep Schrott (“the only bass saxophone quartet in the universe”) playing Don Ayler’s ‘Our Prayer’: