20th August, 1949: ‘To Far East’ (Beatrice Hargrove was Myrtle Ayler’s cousin.)
And here’s those two little scamps at Little Daisy Carr’s birthday party, from the Cleveland Call and Post of 27th September, 1947. Albert is on the back row, second from the right. Don is on the front row, second from the left. Click the picture for the pdf.
Richard Koloda’s long-awaited book about the Ayler brothers is due to be published in the autumn.
Talking of upcoming books, Jeff Schwartz has another one in the pipeline, also due out in the autumn.
If it weren’t for Jeff Schwartz’s online book about Albert Ayler, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Back in the day it was the only thing that came up about Ayler on the entire world wide web. It gave me the idea for this site and was the basis for much of the information on here in the early days. So now he has a book about Free Jazz, which will be published by Suny Press on 1st October. Here’s the blurb:
‘In the late 1950s, free jazz broke all the rules, liberating musicians both to create completely spontaneous and unplanned performances and to develop unique personal musical systems. This genre emerged alongside the radical changes of the 1960s, particularly the Civil Rights, Black Arts, and Black Power movements. Free Jazz is a new and accessible introduction to this exciting, controversial, and often misunderstood music, drawing on extensive research, close listening, and the author’s experience as a performer. More than a catalog of artists and albums, the book explores the conceptual areas they opened: freedom, spirituality, energy, experimentalism, and self-determination. These are discussed in relation to both the political and artistic currents of the times and to specific musical techniques, explained in language clear to ordinary readers but also useful for musicians.’
And, I’m not sure whether I should mention it, but Jeff added this on his facebook post about the book:
“A more reasonably priced paperback is scheduled for June 2023.”
I’ve always questioned whether I was the right person to do this site since my musical knowledge is dire and the closest I get to analysing Albert’s music is saying I like that little laugh he does at the end of ‘Change Has Come’. But, luckily for you, there are people like Sean Wilkie around who can do the important stuff. Prompted by a title change of ‘Saints’ to ‘Prophecy’ on the Hat Hut re-release of Spirits (aka Witches And Devils) in the Revisited series (Albert Ayler Quartets 1964 Spirits To Ghosts Revisited ezz-thetics 1101) Sean has written a piece explaining why he thinks the change shouldn’t have come. It’s on the Spirits Covers page.
Kasper Collin and other stuff
This from Kasper Collin’s twitter feed (via Dirk Goedeking) in reply to Lavelle Porter asking if My Name Is Albert Ayler will be released:
"Oh, thanks. So glad to hear. Ayler doc is a constant headache. Everytime I’ve said it’s soon to be rereleased I’ve meant it. A great distributor wants to do it this year. It was made in the short but peculiar age of DVCam. Much restoring/upscaling work to make it distributable."
I’ve always thought that the lack of a DVD release of Kasper Collin’s film was down to some legal problem regarding Mary Maria Parks; which was why the Fondation Maeght would not release their Ayler documentary (or so Bernard Stollman told me). This is the first time I’ve heard of technical problems regarding the film. I do wonder, with the release of Revelations with the full approval of the Ayler Estate, whether things have changed recently. Mayhap Maria Maria has joined Albert in the Great Majority. More research needed.
Dirk also sent me the beginning of a review of the Ayler Octet’s performance at the Village Theater from The New York Times of 27th February, 1967:
“The Albert Ayler Octet indicated at a concert at the Village Theater on Saturday night that the jazz avant-garde really does have a song in its heart. However, the song turned out to be rather monotonous—a singsong country jig that served as an ensemble theme on several occasions.”
‘Ben Stiller, who directed most of the first season, said that the playlist “embodies the weird tension under the surface that always exists with the characters.”
“It's genre-busting music, which I hope suits the feeling our show aspires to,” Ben Stiller tells Apple Music of this playlist celebrating the Season 1 finale of his Apple Original series Severance streaming on Apple TV+. The playlist’s title - and its collection of skronky retro and avant-garde jazz selections from artists like Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, and Albert Ayler - is a reference to the soundtrack for a deeply unsettling office dance party in the seventh episode of the series, which is about data-entry employees at a mysterious company with a chip implanted in their brains that prohibits them from remembering their non-work lives. “We wanted it to reflect the weirdness of the corporate culture,” Stiller says of both the scene and the spirit of the songs found here. “The feel to me of the show is always ‘generic retro.’ It was all very evocative to me of a dance party from the some future ’50s retro-exotica world.”
That skittish mood is exemplified by the playlist’s opening track, “Shakey Jake” by Joe McPhee. “It embodies the weird tension under the surface that always exists with the characters,” Stiller says. “And the saxophone is insane - I don’t know how he gets those sounds. It’s a 13-minute-plus track and the build is amazing. It’s pushing the bounds of the jazz form, almost to an anarchic level.”
The Ayler track is ‘Bells’ from Love Cry.
Back on safe ground. Here’s a drunken man dancing to Bells, and the aforementioned Joe McPhee with Universal Indians in a concert from Bonn from 24th April. No ‘Ghosts’ but here’s ‘Truth Is Marching In’ (would it were so).
And, finally, I thought I shouldn’t let this one go, although its relevance to Albert Ayler is tangential, to say the least. It’s a TV programme from 1965 called ‘Jazz: The Experimenters’ featuring the Charles Mingus Workshop and the Cecil Taylor Unit. It’s also got introductions/explanations from the jazz journalist, Martin Williams and the novelist, Ralph Ellison (whose Invisible Man is stuck on a pile behind me).
The Ayler connection is just that there’s this item in the Ayler Sessionography which just sits there and intrigues. A concert with Cecil Taylor at New York’s Philharmonic Hall, from New Year’s Eve, 1963, featuring the titles, ‘In Fields’, ‘Octagonal Skirt’ and ‘Fancy Pants’. I removed it from the Unreleased Recordings page long ago, but left it in the Sessionography, with this note:
‘Mike Hames adds the following note about this recording: “I have been unable to find anyone who can confirm the existence of this tape, though it is conventional to list it.” The Holy Ghost book follows the convention.’
When I heard Cecil Taylor give two of those titles (or maybe it’s just one ‘Octagonal Skirt And Fancy Pants’) I thought maybe this TV show had been the cause of the confusion, but, now with my trusty subscription to The New York Times I checked for the concert - no review (although the NYT search engine is a bit rubbish) but I did find this advert.
So, none the wiser really, which neatly sums up my response to Cecil Taylor’s explanation of his own music. I just like that bit at the end of ‘Change Has Come’ where Albert laughs.
Very sad to report the death of Allen Blairman, the drummer with the Albert Ayler group which performed at the Fondation Maeght in July, 1970. He was much more, of course, but given what I was writing for this site only a couple of days ago, his passing has added poignancy. Born in Pittsburgh, Allen Blairman relocated to Heidelberg, Germany in 1970, which is where he died last Friday at the age of 81. There’s an obituary by Frank Schindelbeck on the German JazzPages site.
June 1 2022
Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings - More Reviews
By the way, the Elemental Music Records page on Bandcamp has Ayler’s last recorded version of ‘Ghosts’, from the first Fondation Maeght concert. Although the release of the complete ORTF recordings might put the earlier albums of selections from the two F.M. concerts in the shade, I hope that they will remain in the catalogue. I can still remember the elation many of us felt on hearing the Shandar LPs following on from the ‘disappointment’ we felt with the last Impulse albums. And whoever it was in Italy who selected the tracks from the first concert for the Blu-Jazz CD (given away free with a magazine), and which was then released properly by ESP as Live On The Riviera, should be congratulated for putting ‘Ghosts’ as the final track. It may not have been what happened, but sometimes reality needs a little nudge to raise the hairs on the back of the neck and give a CD a truly triumphant ending.
Before the Fondation Maeght there was Slugs, venue for Ayler’s May 1966 sessions, Live At Slug’s Saloon (the apostrophe comes and goes, as does the ‘Live’) and the iconic photograph taken outside by Ole Brask. I make no apology for repeating it here.
I mention it because Dirk Goedeking came across a couple of Slugs’ items. A photo of the interior:
Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg emailed to say that he picked up a copy of the French version of Spiritual Unity on the Explosive label, only to discover that it has the original version of ‘Spirits’, which, so the story goes, only occurred on the first ESP pressings of the LP. All the other copies were presumed to have the second, longer version, until the later CD Special Editions appeared, first from Japan, then ESP, when both versions were included. The full story’s on the Spiritual Unity page, and here’s a picture of Explosive 538107.
The New York Times
Last month I included a review of an Ayler concert at the Village Theater from The New York Times. I also found a brief review of Ayler’s appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival and a review of Love Cry by Martin Williams. There’s also a piece about the funeral of John Coltrane, and another obituary of Albert Ayler (I’d only seen the article by Archie Shepp before). Finally, there are a couple of articles by Nat Hentoff about the ‘state of jazz’. The first, from Christmas Day, 1966, is entitled ‘The New Jazz—Black, Angry, And Hard To Understand’ (Part 1 pp. 10-11, Part 2 pp.36-39), the second, from 26 November, 1967 entitled ‘Will Rock ‘n’ Roll Take Over From Jazz?’ Both recall the question posed by the Bonzo Dog DooDah Band.
Pierre Crépon has a new playlist on the Wire, this time devoted to French pianist/composer, Franēois Tusques. This is Pierre’s introduction:
‘Quite a few names from free jazz’s 1960s heydays could be bandied around to discuss Franēois Tusques: Don Cherry, Sunny Murray, Alan Silva, Clifford Thornton... There are then the milestones, such as his 1965 Free Jazz album, one of the first recordings connecting Europe with the jazz avant garde. But, more importantly, the uniqueness of Tusques’ music has never faltered, with some of his most recent releases on Parisian label Improvising Beings ranking among his best (see tracks 1, 4, 6 in this playlist).’
Dirk Goedeking sent me a link to “Archie Shepp's ‘Calling to the forest’ single with Marion Rampal from 2021. A catchy tune with beautiful polyphone singing at the end.” Actually there is an Ayler connection here, Marion Rampal is also a member of The Alppalachians, who did a version of Ayler’s ‘Holy Family’ and (my site so I get two) also this version of ‘Freight Train’ - shades of Nancy Whiskey.
And my other ‘unconnected with Ayler so what’s it doing here’ selection (‘slightly off-piste’ is much neater) is this interview with Mike Westbrook on the Jazzwise site.
And finally ...
I was hoping that Allen Blairman’s passing just days after the release of Revelations, with all the attendant publicity, would have generated more comment outside his adopted home of Germany, but it does not seem to be the case. But I did find this.
July 1 2022
The latest Albert Ayler release from Hat Hut in the Revisited series is:
Albert Ayler Quintet At Slugs’ Saloon 1966 Revisited (ezz-thetics 1131) is the full, 5 track version, on a single CD, remastered by Michael Brändli. Click the cover above for a pdf with the sleevenotes. See bandcamp for more details.
At Slug’s Saloon is another of the posthumous releases in the Ayler discography, first appearing in 1982 on the Italian Base Records label which had the European franchise of ESP-Disk’ at the time. There are these unsung heroes of the ‘crazy world of Albert Ayler’, people like Paul Haines, who recorded the Prophecy sessions, and here, Jan Werner, who recorded this New York appearance of the band (with a change of bassist) which had played the Cleveland La Cave concerts only a fortnight before. Then there are the record companies, in Europe and Japan, which released the music, often without observing the legal niceties, but who’s to say how much of it would have seen the light of day without such shenanigans. Nothing of that kind here, of course, because Mr. Uehlinger of Hat Hut plays with the straightest of bats and always gets the approval of the Ayler Estate. However, what the dubious practices of the past did create, whilst unleashing this music on the world, was a lot of confusion for fans of Albert Ayler in the world before the coming of its wide web. So, friend Clive bought copies of the two Magic Music CDs (‘Truth Is Marching In’ and ‘Black Revolt’) then the Jazz Door CD (‘In Memory Of Albert Ayler’), not realising these were just different versions of At Slug’s Saloon. And when he gave me the copy of the latter, that was when I decided to do this website in order to make some sense of the Albert Ayler discography. (I feel I should add, ‘True story’.) Of course that wasn’t the end of the confusion. A fifth track appeared at some point, in Japan, Germany (ZYX) and Italy (Get Back), before a complete 2 CD set was released by ESP in 2005. More confusion, since the year before Lonehill Jazz (Spain) had issued the original 4 track version as ‘Complete Live At Slug’s Saloon’. And then in 2018 Jazzwerkstatt (Germany) reissues the old Jazz Door ‘In Memory Of Albert Ayler’ now renamed ‘Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe’ and couples it with the Peter Brötzmann Die Like A Dog Quartet’s 1994 album, Fragments Of Music, Life And Death Of Albert Ayler.
As for the music, it is a live concert in a jazz club, and not professionally recorded. You make allowances for that. The La Cave sessions were a band coming together on the fly, with a boyhood mate of Don Ayler’s on bass and a visiting Dutch classical violinist who just wandered into a rehearsal - and it’s great. Two weeks later, it’s still great. The new release follows the convention regarding the titles of the tracks. Some of the earlier versions of At Slug’s Saloon were closer to the mark by adding this before the actual titles: “A [ ] Concert Featuring Themes And Variations From:” For a full breakdown of the actual tunes played on 1st May, 1966, I would direct you to Sean Wilkie’s excellent and exhaustive article in the Music Section of this site.
Another intriguing offshoot of At Slug’s Saloon, referenced by Ulrich Steinmetzger in his sleevenotes to the new release, is the book by Friedrich Christian Delius, Die Zukunft der Schönheit (The Future of Beauty). Published in 2017 under the original title, Albert Ayler oder Die Zukunft der Schönheit (Albert Ayler or The Future of Beauty), this was the publisher’s description:
‘ “Albert Ayler or The Future of Beauty” is a story by Friedrich Christian Delius, winner of the Büchner Prize. On the evening of May 1, 1966, a young German enters Slug’s Saloon in New York, the legendary club of the jazz avant-garde. On the stage stands the tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler and plays a music that is different than anything his German guest has ever heard before. Ayler’s improvisational frenzy draws the young man into the wake of free jazz, triggers a clairvoyant frenzy of association, opens his ears and eyes: he hears the angry indictment of the Vietnam War, thinks of his own protest, his youth in the small town of Hesse and a jazz evening, which led to the disintegration with the sick father. Finally, the poet arrives to see how a new, new beauty and truth arises from the decomposition of music. An autobiographical story and a virtuoso literary sound document, which not only captures a great jazz experience, but also the liberating power and the spirit of a new epoch, a new, unheard-of art.’
Google translated that for me from the publisher’s website. Unfortunately Die Zukunft der Schönheit has not been translated into English. And it’s also sad to report that F. C. Delius passed away on 30th May, this year.
[Talking of which, last month I made a passing comment about Slugs’ viz. ‘(the apostrophe comes and goes, as does the ‘Live’)’ which I now feel I should elaborate upon since I may be one of the sources of some more confusion. The apostrophe is simple. Slugs’ is the venue, but the original release of At Slug’s Saloon on Base Records, made the Slug singular. So, now, when I’m writing about the Ayler album I tend to keep to the singular Slug (although the new Hat Hut release has gone with the correct, plural, placement of the apostrophe). More concerning is the ‘Live’. I always thought it was ‘Live At Slug’s Saloon’, but apparently not. I have changed it accordingly, so it’s now At Slug’s Saloon as per the original release, but it may take a while for the change to percolate through the pages and phantom ‘Live’s may still drift around here and there - mea culpa.]
In The Army
Richard Koloda, whose new biography of the Ayler brothers is still on track for its publication in the autumn, has kindly permitted me to post a photocopy of Albert’s army records, including his enlistment and discharge forms. The latter is the clearest, so that’s the one below. For the rest it’s best taking a look at the pdf, some pages of which need rotating.
One item which I thought worth repeating is the following:
“PLAYED A SAXOPHONE IN A DANCE BAND.’ ...
More reviews of Elemental Music’s release of the Complete Fondation Maeght Concerts. One on the London Jazz News site by Jon Turney, another in the July issue of The New York City Jazz Record, which can be accessed here. The review, by George Grella, is on page 25, and there’s also a review of the new English translation of Peter Niklas Wilson’s Spirits Rejoice: Albert Ayler and his Message on page 24. Dirk Goedeking also sent me a link to the Straight No Chaser podcast which featured Zev Feldman talking about Record Store Day 2022, including a section on Revelations, which begins around the 2 minute mark.
Grachan Moncur III (3/6/1937 - 3/6/2022)
The trombonist passed away on his 85th birthday as the result of a heart attack. I don’t know whether he ever played with Albert Ayler, but his band did take part in the same concert at the Village Gate which produced The New Wave In Jazz album. Other than that he’s mentioned here because he was just one of those memorable names back in the day (a most memorable name) when one of the few sources of information about Free Jazz was LP covers, and, if you check the list on his wikipedia entry, he appeared on a lot. The Guardian and the NPR site have obituaries.
ListN Up: Lewis Jordan
A playlist from Lewis Jordan featuring his own tribute to Albert Ayler, ‘Heaven’s Bells’.
Dirk let me know about a lecture by Michael Snow on youtube,. The bit about New York Eye And Ear Control starts at 46:32.
Fire Music, the documentary about Free Jazz, directed by Tom Surgal, which premiered back in September, 2018 is now available on the Criterion Channel. Pity, I was hoping it’d go to Netflix.
And finally ... Everybody’s Movin’
This from Dirk: a link to a Key Finder site, where ‘Everybody’s Movin’’ (from New Grass) is the Ayler track with the highest danceability (58/100). As attested to by Obie, the Jack Russell:
The Elizabethan Phrasing Of The Late Albert Ayler
August 1 2022
“Update November 1 2001
There was some recent correspondence in The Wire magazine about Don Ayler. Thanks to Karl Webb I managed to track down the current issue and read the letter from Richard Koloda. Richard is writing a book about the Ayler brothers (in collaboration with Don) which hopefully will set the facts straight on a number of issues and at least will tell Don’s side of the story. No publication date as yet.”
That is the first mention of Richard Koloda and his book on this site. Now, finally, it is available for pre-order on amazon and the rest. The UK amazon says the book will be released on 8th November and here follows the blurb for Holy Ghost: The Life And Death Of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler by Richard Koloda:
Holy Ghost is the first extended study of free jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler, who is seen today as one of the most important innovators in the history of jazz. Ayler synthesized children’s songs, La Marseillaise, American march music, and gospel hymns, turning them into powerful, rambunctious, squalling free-jazz improvisations. Some critics considered him a charlatan, others a heretic for unhinging the traditions of jazz. Some simply considered him insane. However, like most geniuses, Ayler was misunderstood in his time. His divine messages of peace and love, apocalyptic visions of flying saucers, and the strange account of the days leading up to his being found floating in New York s East River are central to his mystique, but, as Koloda points out, they are a distraction, overshadowing his profound impact on the direction of jazz as one of the most visible avant-garde players of the 1960s and a major influence on others, including John Coltrane. A musicologist, and friend of Don Ayler, Albert s troubled trumpet-playing brother, Richard Koloda has spent over two decades researching this book. He follows Ayler from his beginnings in his native Cleveland to France, where he received his greatest acclaim, to his untimely death on November 25, 1970, at age thirty-four, and puts to rest speculation concerning his mysterious death. A feat of biography and a major addition to jazz scholarship, Holy Ghost offers a new appreciation of one of the most important and controversial figures in the twentieth-century music.
John Szwed (author of the masterly Space Is The Place: The Lives And Times Of Sun Ra, and many others) gives his approval:
“Albert Ayler's music was so startling that some called it a scandal, the last scandal in a music that had begun in scandal. Others, like Anthony Braxton, said that Albert had pushed the vocabulary of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders as far as they could be pushed, and that everything after him would be post-Ayler. Ayler's brother and band member Donald said that all they were guilty of was breathing. Today, Albert's music and his vision might be called an early form of Afrofuturism, a return to the past to create a new future. The facts of Ayler's life have for years been hard to come by, and stories told about him are mythological, some even ghostly. Koloda's book remarkably reconstructs Ayler's life story and explores the controversy he created.”
And there’s this about the author:
“Richard Koloda has a master s degree in Musicology from Cleveland State University (having written a thesis on the piano music of Frederic Rzewski). He was a contributor on the critically acclaimed documentary My Name Is Albert Ayler by Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collin, and was a consultant on Revenant Records ten-CD retrospective of Ayler, which has been called the Sistine Chapel of box sets. Richard lives in Wayland, Ohio, where he practices law. When he is not in court, he is working on his second book (not about music).”
It’s been a long time coming, but we don’t have much longer to wait.
In the meantime, one of the delights of the long gestation period of Holy Ghost: The Life And Death Of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler (it’s good to be able to finally put a title to ‘the book about the Ayler brothers which Richard Koloda is writing’), is the occasional scrap from his table which Richard tosses my way. So, this is a link to a photograph of a couple of the members (Juini Booth and Milford Graves) of the Ayler group which played at the Albright-Knox Auditorium, in Buffalo, N.Y., on 9th March, 1968. The session was filmed for the Public Broadcast Laboratory TV programme, Who’s Afraid of the Avant-Garde?€¯ but the Ayler footage was not included.
The other book
Can’t mention one without the other. The new English translation of Peter Niklas Wilson’s Spirits Rejoice! Albert Ayler And His Message is reviewed in the August issue of The Wire by Pierre Crépon. It’s in the print issue, so no link, but if you can, check it out since there is a great photo of Albert at home in Cleveland in May 1962, just before he set off for Scandinavia.
There’s an article on the DownBeat site about Hat Hut Records in all its guises and an interview with its founder, Werner X. Uehlinger. It ends with the La Cave sessions and says the Slugs’ Saloon sessions are on their way. In fact they’re here now and available on bandcamp, as I mentioned last month. For the sleevenotes to these two releases by what has been called Albert Ayler’s greatest band, click the pix below:
I make no apology for this second mention of the Slugs’ reissue. I’ve now had a chance to listen to the new release and compare it to the other version I had, the German CD, In Memory Of Albert Ayler (Jazz Door 1203), and there is a vast improvement, thanks to the remastering magic of Michael Brändli. Sean Wilkie opens his forensic examination of At Slug’s Saloon (in the Music Section of this site) with the following introduction:
“Warning (poor bootleg sound quality)
The sound quality of this recording is extremely poor. Even by bootleg standards, it is poor. Anyone who hasn’t heard Bells or Spirits Rejoice (both on ESP) or Live In Greenwich Village or Love Cry (both on Impulse!) should go to those recordings first – particularly to Live in Greenwich Village, the 2CD set combining Ayler’s first Impulse album with posthumously-released material from the same concerts. ... If and only if an unquenched enthusiasm for the music of this period (1965 - 1967, while his brother Donald played trumpet alongside him) is engendered by those albums, should you bother with the Slugs’ Saloon recording.”
Maybe I should remove that now. It’s not perfect, the bass is still largely absent (except in the quieter passages), and this remains an amateur recording from a member of the audience in a noisy club. But what you have is another example (along with the La Cave sessions) of an Ayler group stretching out and playing with no restrictions, in an informal setting. Although most of the posthumous releases of Ayler’s music were live recordings, there is still a lot of variety in the circumstances of each. La Cave is a totally new group feeling its way, compared to the Slugs’ session where they’ve found it. Then you get the changes in the rhythm section and the series of recordings from the 1966 European Tour. Most from radio or television broadcasts, so better recorded than Slugs’, but restricted to the Ayler group’s regular 30 minute slot. No chance to really wail. So, listen to the Greenwich Village recordings first, by all means, but then have no fear about dipping your toe into the Slugs’.
That is not a pleasant image to end on, so I will add a bit more. I think the label of ‘Albert Ayler’s greatest band’, refers more than anything to the presence of Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums. There’s a nice story about why Albert recruited Jackson in Holy Ghost: The Life And Death Of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler (which I can’t relate here, for obvious reasons), and Jackson was less than forthcoming in the article/interview in The Wire (available at the Internet Archive), although he does have an interesting aside about the Village Vanguard.
When he walked past a drum, and knew it was going to be part of his life to come, he was just four. Loops don’t have beginnings. Two weeks after he first arrived in New York, he landed a gig with Charles Tyler through another Fort Worth worthy, Charles Moffett, and after the session, “this fellow with the strange beard who I hadn’t noticed” came up and asked him to play; Albert Ayler. After which things happened to him. Or else they didn’t: “When Albert was living, he was going to do the cover interview of downbeat, he asked me to come for the interview, but I was so stoned out of my mind the night before that I was stoned for another couple of days, so 1 didn’t even get up to go to the meeting. So that’s why I say, it’s my karma, because I missed being on the cover and being in the news. He had to go and find his brother, and he took his brother to the interview.” After Albert's death, though, a period of frustration. He gave up music, worked as a Market Statistician for North Division United Aircraft: till he found himself doodling drums in the office and looking forward to going-home time, and six hours’ practice every evening. So goodbye to his two secretaries and his wallet full of credit cards for a life of sleeping rough, scrounging for food. Until he ran into Ornette, with Bern Nix, in a restaurant, looking for a second drummer for Prime Time. Ornette, coming on him playing round the kit one day, lingering on the rhythm-melodies, advised him to take up the flute to help him compose. Some time round the same time he met Cecil Taylor in the Village Vanguard, a club he hadn’t entered for maybe ten years (they had, he says, an attitude with people who’d played with Ayler). “I was going down the street – and my mind was saying, Get something to eat, you’re hungry. But my first mind was saying. Go into the Vanguard. So by this time. Buddhism had trained me to listen to my first mind – and I went into the Vanguard in spite of myself. I don’t know who was playing. I wasn’t interested. I went into the kitchen. “Cecil Taylor was standing back there drinking a bottle of champagne. He asked me what 1 do. I said I play drums. He said, Can you play? And I said. I’m the best at what I play, because no one else plays the way I play. He said. Give me your number, and the next day he called me. That’s the way it’s been. I didn’t plan these things.”
From ‘A Jackson In Your House’ by Mark Sinker in The Wire (December 88/January 89, p.16).
“Ayler was another Slugs favourite and on At Slugs' Saloon 1966 Revisited he gives the audience his all, accompanied by his brother Donald Ayler on trumpet, Michel Samson on violin, Lewis Worrell on double bass and Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums. The five extended tracks catch Ayler at his barnstorming zenith and are among his greatest live recordings. The material, which has previously been available on a variety of often sonically flawed releases, here benefits from the ministrations of the ezz-thetics label's chief mastering Jedi, Michael Brändli. The truth keeps marching in, indeed, and on.”
Which just about sums it all up.
Dirk Goedeking let me know about a concert due to take place in Berlin on 29th September at the Museum of Musical Instruments. ‘Project Albert and Dmitri’ features the trio of
Gebhard Ullman (saxes, electronics and looper), Jonas Westergaard (bass) and Moritz Baumgärtner (drums) and the concert will focus on arrangements of Dmitri Shostakovich's string quartets, paired with works by Albert Ayler. The results will be interesting to say the least. I recall ten years ago (only by looking it up) a Finnish musician, Kalle Autio, did a whole album of Ayler tunes translated to a chamber music setting. It’s still on bandcamp and well worth another listen. But Shostakvich string quartets - they ain’t Christmas carols - surely you need something a bit lighter to mix with Albert, Haydn perhaps, or Dvorak’s ‘American’ Quartet, that would work. Still, we wait and see, and all credit to Gebhard Ullman, winner of 2022’s German Jazz Prize, for trying something new.
Wadada Leo Smith
Dirk also sent me a link to a new project by Wadada Leo Smith, a 5 album set of recordings of duets featuring Smith with the drummers: Pheeroan Aklaff (Litanies, Prayers And Meditations), Andrew Cyrille (Havana, Cuba), Han Bennink (Mysterious Sonic Fields) and Jack DeJohnette (Freedom Summer, The Legacy and Paradise: The Gardens and Fountains). Full details at discogs.
On the Andrew Cyrille CD there’s a track called ‘Donald Ayler: The Master Of The Sound And Energy Forms’ and Dirk suggests that with Wadada Leo Smith’s previous tributes to the Ayler brothers (‘Albert Ayler in a Spiritual Light’, ‘Albert Ayler’ and ‘Donald Ayler's Rainbow Summit’) there’s enough there for an Ayler EP.
I’ve mentioned her before (back in February 2021) and here I mention her again. Checking the google news this month Moor Mother is all over the place, in interviews and articles in The Guardian, Stereogum, Bayern2 (Bavaria) and NRC (Netherlands). All to do with her new album, Jazz Codes, and all mentioning Albert Ayler in the list of artists she admires. So, I follow suit, and thank her for spreading the word.
Although we treat Albert Ayler as a prime example of the under-appreciated artist and celebrate his cult status, the fact is, as evidenced by the item above and this year’s flurry of activity, Albert’s future is fairly secure. But there are other musicians, ploughing the same furrows of Free Jazz, over the years, keeping the faith, who are barely recognised. Roy Morris has been championing some of the latter and I’ve mentioned his efforts a few times on this site, especially when his interests have touched on mine, such as in the case of Norman Howard. Roy recently sent me two CDs of music by Joe Rigby and Chris Capers. Both musicians knew Albert Ayler. There’s that great quote from the Paris Transatlantic Magazine with the Joe Rigby interview “Albert Ayler showed me how to play harmonics in a room at the Theresa hotel in Harlem. I remember Fidel Castro was staying there too.” And Chris Capers was alongside Albert as part of the Pharoah Sanders group which played the Renaissance Ballroom in January, 1968 - a recording of which is included in the Holy Ghost box.
These CDs are not commercially available at the moment and Roy hasn’t decided what to do with them yet. They are taken from sessions recorded by Chris Capers and the cassettes ended up in a New York radio station. Impressions was probably recorded in the late 60s and features a quintet, although there’s no information about who’s playing the piano, bass and drums. It’s a 40 minute exploration of the Coltrane tune. Yes, that’s 40 minutes. I’ve listened to it a few times now and I always end up astonished that 40 minutes has passed. 40 minutes of straight-ahead, Free Jazz blowing with no longueurs, no fears of passing poets sucking the air out of the room, just five musicians going about their business and creating sublime music. The second CD is entitled Revelations, but that’s not an attempt to grab onto the coat-tails of that other Revelations, it’s just coincidence. This is a quartet session (unknown bass and drums) recorded on 29th January, 1979. Two 30 minute tracks this time, the second breaking off after 20 before sliding into a third ‘tune’, not so frenetic, slower, elegiac (I’d almost say Mexican, recalling ‘El Degüello’, but then again, maybe I watch too many cowboy films). It begins with the band in unison before a fantastic Joe Rigby solo followed by Chris Capers and just when he’s getting going, the tape runs out and that’s it. Personally (although Roy would never do it), I would fade the track out after Joe’s solo, around the 7 minute mark, then you could release that as a single (no, in some other rational universe, maybe, one in which the Leader of the Labour Party doesn’t sack one of his M.P.s for standing on a picket line). One of the real revelations of the CD, which is very well recorded, is the bass player - the drummer’s not bad either - but the bassist is terrific. So that’s it. Peter Brötzmann’s sleevenotes to theIn Memory Of Albert Ayler (Slugs’) CD mentioned above are titled “... AND SOMEBODY, JUST SOMEBODY, PLEASE LISTEN!” - I feel that also applies to this music of Joe Rigby and Chris Capers. Roy’s sleevenotes to each CD end with the following note: “Chris is now living in Brooklyn, struggling quietly with loss of vision, while, sadly, Joe is no longer with us, having passed away in 2018.”
Roy also sent me this photo of the enigmatic Norman Howard (composer of ‘Witches and Devils’ and trumpeter on that eponymous album).
Roy says he’s now run out of the Homeboy cassettes he produced a while back. But he still has the music and if anyone’s interested in a CDR then drop me a line and I’ll pass it on to Roy.
1. There’s an Italian review of Revelations, including photos from the booklet, some of which I haven’t seen before.
2. And the London Jazz News site has a review of the Suedtirol Jazzfestival Alto Adige 2022 (Italy) which includes the following review of the Ville Lähteenmäki Trio:
“The Ville Lähteenmäki Trio (Jun 28) from north Norway had a big sound well suited to the raised stage in the Parco Cappuccini. Nicolas Leirtrų’s muscly bass reminded me of Petter Eldh, and Ville Lähteenmäki’s bass clarinet had a Pharoah Sanders-ish rasp and multiphonic squeals. Trym Saugstad Karlsen’s drums were full and free with subtle polyrhythms. As Lähteenmäki moved to flute, the sweet bluesy sound recalled Charles Lloyd and the way the music moved between free jazz and folk elements, contrasting deep bass and fragile percussion. Albert Ayler’s Ghosts concluded, a little raunchiness in the clarinet sound over fast walking bass.”
3. And here’s some more walking bass.
4. I always forget Albert’s birthday (he would have been 86 on 13th July) - I have problems remembering those of the living, so the dead have no chance - but he was honoured in Cardiff, at the Flute & Tankard, by the house band of Joe Northwood (tenor sax) John Close (guitar, effects) Aeddan Williams (upright bass) Ryan Thrupp (drums) with special guest and (instigator of the tribute) Sean Wilkie (grass reed/manual mouthpiece, words). Sean describes his contribution thus:
“They indulged my blowing of a blade of grass between my thumbs – (thankfully, I kept this completely off-mic)– which I shamefully conceived as a Donald Ayler tribute each time I let rip. My verbal contribution was restricted to one line of New Ghosts – ‘the night and day will pass away …’ and one strained ‘Happy birthday dear Albert’.”
I salute you, Sir.
5. And finally...
This one’s from Dirk Goedeking, who usually doesn’t sink as low as me and eschews covers of dodgy mp3 albums, but this one caught his eye. It’s for Spiritual Unity, on the TP4 Music label. I took a quick look at their other products and it seems Albert is in distinguished company, including an Hawaiian album by Marty Robbins, a devotional album by Jim Reeves (We Thank Thee), and the soundtrack of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. That it is ... that it is.