What a way to begin a New Year! Thanks to Werner X. Uehlinger and Hat Hut Records we now have the Helsinki concert from the 1966 European Tour and the music from the fabled Munich TV programme. We also have the Rotterdam concert from the same tour, rescued from the legal limbo of the Holy Ghost box set. The Helsinki concert was televised but the video has been lost, however the Munich video is available (as explained last November). There is still some mystery surrounding the Rotterdam concert because of that 13 minute ‘Rotterdam Tape’ which came from a TV programme broadcast in The Netherlands in 1970 (hence the title) but its true origin remains obscure. At the moment the only concert from the 1966 tour officially unreleased (although the bootleg version is available here) is the one from Copenhagen. And, since none of the known material from 1966 matches the ‘Rotterdam Tape’ the obvious conclusion is that there’s another televised concert, part of which had existed, video intact, until at least 1970. Still, let that go for now and celebrate what we have here.
LOST PERFORMANCES 1966 REVISITED
1. Ghosts (2:51) 2. Our Prayer (4:01) 3. Infinite Spirit (3:10) 4. Truth Is Marching In (10:23) 5. Prophet (5:00) 6. Bells / Infinite Spirit (10:28) 7. Change Has Come (6:41) 8. Truth Is Marching In (10:30) 9. Divine Peace Maker (6:05) 10. Infinite Spirit (5:19) 11. Prophet (5:24) 12. Our Prayer (4:42)
Donald Ayler (t), Albert Ayler (ts), Michel Samson (v), Bill Folwell (b), Beaver Harris (d)
Tracks 1 to 3: November (4th, 5th or 6th), 1966 SWF Television Studio, Munich, Germany
Tracks 4 to 7: November 8, 1966 De Doelen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (Originally released in the Holy Ghost box set but with incorrect titles.)
Tracks 8 to 12: November 9, 1966 Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki, Finland
Lost Performances 1966 Revisited (Hat Hut (Switzerland) ezz-thetics: LC 91771) is currently available for download from bandcamp and the CD version will be issued later this month.
Revelations and Holy Ghost (the book)
Two of the standout releases from last year, Elemental Music’s Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings and Richard Koloda’s Holy Ghost; The Life & Death of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler both featured in various ‘Best of the year’ lists towards the end of 2022. Revelations appeared in The New York Times and The Quietus. Holy Ghost ... headed Frank Alkyer’s selection of ‘Jazz To Read By’ in DownBeat and was described in Richard Brody’s ‘A Year In Reading’ at The Millions as “a meticulous and passionate critical biography of Albert Ayler”. There are also two new reviews of Richard Koloda’s book at Jazz Weekly and on the Northern Irish Marlbank site. And here’s a couple of photos of Richard’s book-signing event at Cleveland’s Visible Voice Books.
Richard added this note to his facebook post of the first one:
“This is another photo of me at the book signing at #visiblevoicebooks I am standing next to Curtis Roundtree --who is Albert Ayler's son (you will note the physical resemblance to Don Ayler in the youtube video which showed Don at that age) ironically Mr. Roundtree's grandchildren play saxophone and trumpet.--I always remember how kind his late mother was when I interviewed her --she baked cookies for my daughter and myself.
The youtube video of Don Ayler is the one taken from Richard’s interview with him and his father, Edward:
Some other stuff
1. Sorry, doing this at speed, so here’s a bunch of things. Dirk Goedeking let me know about a couple of new releases from those legends of Free Jazz, Archie Shepp and the Sun Ra Arkestra - not together. Archie Shepp has a follow-up single to his Ocean Bridges with his nephew Raw Poetic, entitled A Mile In My Head.
And the Sun Ra Arkestra, under the leadership of Marshall Allen since Sun now resides on Saturn, has a new album out, Living Sky, which is available on bandcamp.
2. Dirk also sent a link to this photo of John Tchicai with Marte Röling and her designs for reissues of several LPs for the Fontana label. Her design for Albert Ayler’s Spirits is the one at the centre, left but it was never used. This is one of the photos taken by Nico Van Der Stam (some of which were also used in Richard Koloda’s book) which can be viewed on the Amsterdam City Archive site.
Leading on from that was this ‘imagined’ poster by Hannah Cooper for the November 1966 Berlin Jazz Festival and Dirk also sent the original version.
3. There’s an essay by Robin D. G. Kelley at the Boston Review entitled ‘Flowers for Farah’. It’s ostensibly about Farah Jasmine Griffin, but it begins with some thoughts about David Murray’s ‘Flowers For Albert’ and Albert himself.
4. Following on from the death of Pharoah Sanders last September, Kees Hazevoet sent me an intriguing extract from an interview with Sonny Rollins, originally published in the Dutch magazine, Jazz Wereld (No. 13, July/Augist 1967, p.7). The page is available here, and Kees’ translation of the relevant bit (towards the end of the left column) is as follows:
“I didn’t hear Pharoah (Sanders) with Coltrane yet, but heard him with Ayler. I also like Ayler. He played, what they called, ‘traditional’, when he was in Europe at the time. At least, that’s what they told me. Time wasn’t ready for it. He was more or less inspired by one of his idols.”
Kees adds: (not clear which ‘idol’ he meant - could it be Bechet?)
Michael Snow, the Canadian artist and film-maker, died on 5th January at the age of 94. He is celebrated on this site as the instigator of Albert Ayler’s 1964 ESP album, New York Eye And Ear Control. Over the years I’ve mentioned how that recording came about, how it was envisioned as a totally free improvisation, and although it didn’t really follow Michael Snow’s wishes in that regard, it has still come to be mentioned in the same breath as Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz and John Coltrane’s Ascension as one of a triumvirate of landmark ‘large group’ recordings of the Free Jazz revolution. The music was recorded by Paul Haines at his home in New York specifically to be used as the soundtrack of Michael Snow’s film, New York Eye and Ear Control.
Towards the end, the film includes several shots of the musicians [Ah, would that they were playing!] and when it was really difficult to see a copy of the actual film, Kasper Collin’s use of the clip of Albert staring moodily to camera, in his documentary, My Name Is Albert Ayler, became the iconic image of that film and was used in the publicity material.
There are several obituaries of Michael Snow: The New York Times, FYI Music News, the British Film Institute and Artforum. Prior to his hearing of the death of Michael Snow, Dirk Goedeking had collected a selection of ‘walking woman’ pictures which he was going to send for this month’s site update, as he explains:
‘Originally I wanted to send you a variety of artworks, that are on sale right now. The first thing I saw was “Hub”, a “Walking Woman” work by Michael Snow, at James Rottman’s in Toronto for $35,000. Looking at it, I changed my plans and decided to make a collection of circular “Walking Woman” works. So here they are: 13 round prints, cds, records and cookies.
What a coincidence: just as I was prepearing the jpgs, I read about Michael Snow’s death. So this is my orbituary for him.’
Margaret Davis Grimes (13/8/1940 - 7/1/2023)
Margaret Davis Grimes passed away on 7th January at the age of 82. She was a frequent contributor to this site over the years, particularly after her marriage to Henry Grimes. There’s a full obituary on the JazzdaGama site.
The Jazzwise site has a long article by Stuart Nicholson about Albert Ayler which credits Richard Koloda’s Holy Ghost; The Life & Death of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler as the source for much of the information. It was originally published in the December issue of the magazine but is now available online. Holy Ghost ... also gets good reviews in the International Times and on the NYS Music site, and there’s an honourable mention in Rodrigo Llanes Salazar’s ‘The favorites of 2022’ in connection with the release of Revelations. Richard also contributed on 7th January to David Freeman’s Author Archive Podcast and there’s a German review of the book on the Deutschlandfunk radio station.
And on the subject of German books and radio stations. There’s a broadcast on NDR on 13th February featuring the soundtrack for Friedrich Christian Delius’ 2018 book, Die Zukunft der Schönheit (“The Future of Beauty”), which, presumably is At Slugs’ Saloon.
Lee Santa, famous photographer of jazz musicians, let me read a rough first draft of the autobiography he’s working on, which is either going to be titled My Journey Into Jazz or Adventures of a Jazz Fan. Although he never photographed Albert or Don Ayler he did meet them once and he kindly let me add a couple of extracts from his book here:
‘Meeting Albert Ayler and Alice Coltrane’s Cosmic Concert Carnegie Hall, New York, NY, Easter Sunday, 1968
The next day while walking the streets of Manhattan, I saw a poster advertising a Carnegie Hall concert billed as the “Alice Coltrane Cosmic Concert” featuring Alice Coltrane (p), Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson (ts), Reggie Workman (b), Jack DeJohnette (d). Easter Sunday morning I purchase a ticket for the concert. In the meantime, I did some sightseeing in the area. ... I had taken off my leather jacket and draped it over my shoulder, causing the concert ticket I had just purchased to slip out of my inside breast pocket. I didn't discover my ticket was missing until just before arriving at Carnegie Hall. Naturally, I was very upset by this development. Once inside the lobby I immediately went to the ticket counter and explained to a clerk what had happened. Without question or hesitation, the understanding older woman gave me a new ticket at no charge.
Feeling extremely fortunate and amused by the clerk’s eccentric manner and generosity, I started across the lobby when I see a man who I am sure is Albert Ayler. I approached him and asked if he indeed was. Yes, he said. I then asked him excitedly if he was playing tonight. Unfortunately he wasn’t, but he handed me a flyer advertising a concert that he and his brother Don were giving in a couple of weeks. He then introduced me to Don. I told Albert how much I liked his music, explaining that my first exposure to his music happened when I was in the Army and had purchased his ESP album, Spiritual Unity. I explained how it floored me (to this day it is one of the most incredible albums I have heard). I went on and on about how much I liked his music.
He was very attentive and we spoke to each other for at least five minutes. I was struck by the fact that this hero of mine was giving me so much of his time, that he was genuinely interested in what I had to say. All this time Albert’s brother sat on a nearby steam radiator, quietly listening to our conversation. Both of them impressed me as musicians who sincerely cared what their fans thought and were more than happy to engage with them, which is something you can’t say about every artist.
When we concluded our talk I found my seat, which was front-row center, a much better seat than the one I’d purchased earlier. I couldn’t believe such good luck had come from my miscue near the Sheep Meadow, when I carelessly threw my coat over my shoulder.
Here’s how good the seat was. About three or four seats over from me sat another of my heroes, Ornette Coleman. With him was the filmmaker Shirley Clarke, whose final film would be her 20-year study of Coleman, Ornette: Made in America (1985).
And finally, back to the Koloda book, but not as you know it. Dirk Goedeking came across this on twitter:
Fritz Pape tweets: “my brother and his family got me the new albert ayler book for my birthday, but it didn't arrive in time so my nephew drew a picture of the cover.”
New Year, New Sections; which will be abandoned, like all New Year’s Resolutions, next month. Actually we begin with a return to last month’s big new release from Hat Hut. For a change here’s the back cover of Lost Performances 1966 Revisited:
I’ve now had a chance to listen to this and, as usual, Michael Brändli has done his remastering magic on the 1966 concerts in Rotterdam and Helsinki. Rotterdam has been available before in the Holy Ghost box, but this is the first release of the Helsinki concert. Comparing the former with the previous version, this seems to favour the strings and drums a bit more, so that there’s more emphasis on the whole ensemble. It makes one realise how close the Ayler Quintet was to the collective improvisation of the original New Orleans bands, with Michel Samson’s violin playing an equal part with the two horns. Although he does get to show off before his home crowd in the long solo section during the wild version of ‘Change Has Come’ which closes the concert. The Helsinki concert, recorded on the next night for a TV broadcast, is more of the same - which is not meant as a flip dismissal, more of a celebratory welcome of yet another magical half-hour of music. Again, the strings are to the fore, and it’s nice to hear what Bill Folwell’s up to - one usually gets the impression, from the photos as much as anything else, that he’s just sawing away in the background. Not so. But I think the highlight of the album for me is the Munich TV session. I’d never heard this at all, and I still haven’t seen it, but I get the impression that it was an attempt to play down the wilder excesses of the Ayler Quintet’s music and just play the tunes. Rather like the first side of Love Cry. And, frankly I have no objection to that. Reading some critics of Ayler, (the ones who liked him, not those who just dismissed him out of hand because he wasn’t playing a banjo) you get the impression they don’t like tunes. Whether that’s a jazz critic thing - you ignore the tune at the start to find the real meat in the following improvisations - or whether it’s just an academic approach to ‘le free jazz’ - you’ve made the effort to get used to the noisy bits, so noisy bits is what you want to hear. Personally, I like tunes, and the selection in the Munich TV recording is spot on. ‘Ghosts’, then a beautiful version of Don’s ‘Our Prayer’ with the strings of Michael Samson and Bill Folwell giving fantastic support, and a final romping ‘Infinite Spirit’ with Beaver Harris getting his chance to shine. The other odd thing about the Munich recording, short though it is (barely 10 minutes) is that this is the only recording of this particular line-up in a studio set up, with no audience. Everything else recorded by this band, and there’s a lot of it, is live, concert recordings. How anyone, back in 1966 or now, could find Ayler’s music upsetting or violent, or unlistenable, or unmusical, or anything other than simply beautiful and joyous, is beyond me.
Next month I will address Revelations, a copy of which I bought myself for Christmas. I’ve only listened to the first CD so far - and, again the remastering is impressive - but I need some more time to do the other three when I’ve not got men on the roof hammering away like Beaver Harris. By the way Revelations made it into the 17th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Poll, at No. 3 in the ‘Rara Avis (Reissues/Archival) section. And Steve Tintweiss let me know about the longer review of Revelations by Daniel Margolis, published last May but missed by me, in DownBeat.
There’s a load of stuff about Jason Moran’s new album online. It’s called From the Dancehall to the Battlefieldand is a tribute to James Reese Europe. I first came across his name and the incredible story of his Harlem Hellfighters band in ‘Black Music in Europe: A Hidden History’, a radio series by Clarke Peters, broadcast in 2017 by the BBC. There’s a feature on the new album and its inspiration on KALW and Stereogum, and a review at The Quietus which includes the track which made Jason Moran’s album pop up when I did my google news search this month. The track is the old hymn ‘Flee as a Bird to Your Mountain’, which the band would play when a soldier did not return from the battlefield, but mingled with it is Albert Ayler’s ‘Ghosts’ played by tenor saxist Brian Settles.
And finally ... talk
Just a couple of things. Albert Ayler’s influence on Jairus Sharif. And another film with a bit of Ayler on the soundtrack. This one is Passages where the music is described thus:
“The music is an off-beat mix, ranging from an English a capella folk song by Janet Penfold to a blast of Albert Ayler’s free-jazz take on the ‘Marseillaise’. The latter accompanies one character’s breakneck bike ride through Paris, bringing a final Nouvelle Vague flourish to a film that wears its borrowed Frenchness with seductive grace and panache.”
Which makes one wonder whether Ayler was chosen as an hommage to an earlier film about life in gay Paree, Patrice Cheréau’s L’Homme Blessé (The Wounded Man) in which
“a blast from avant-garde jazz artist Albert Ayler’s sax heralds Henri (Jean-Hugues Anglade) and his family racing for a bus to the train station from which his younger sister will leave for her student vacation.”
March 1 2023
1966 European Tour on vinyl
After last year’s Ayler coup for Record Store Day with the release of Revelations (the complete Fondation Maeght concerts) this year’s offering is a vinyl version of HatHut’s 2021 2 CD compilation, Albert Ayler Quintet 1966: Berlin, Lörrach, Paris & Stockholm. Revisited (ezz-thetics 2-1117). There’s more information about this year’s jazz selections for Record Store Day on youtube.
And since I’ve mentioned it, I guess I should add my belated review (promised last month) of the 4 CD set of Revelations here.
First of all I have to say that REVELATIONS: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings is a fantastic achievement and a beautiful product of historical significance, at least as far as the story of Albert Ayler is concerned. The remastering of the original radio recordings is excellent and the 100 page booklet which accompanies the two double CD cases, contains a wealth of new material, including an incredible number of terrific photographs. Any reservations I do have about Revelations is down to my inability to come to terms with what we may call, late-period Ayler. I apologise to anyone who is annoyed by my intransigence.
I first heard these recordings in their raw, unedited, unremastered state a few years ago and my first reaction was that the second concert was a lot better than the first. Hearing them again I still think so. There are obvious reasons for this. Ayler’s attitude to his rhythm sections (at least since the early days with Sunny Murray and Gary Peacock) seems to be to hire whoever’s available and don’t bother rehearsing, just throw them in at the deep end (although I should add that Tintweiss and Blairman are both excellent here). Added to that, Call Cobbs missed his plane, so missed the first concert. Added to that is the new frontline pairing of Mary Maria and Albert Ayler. As far as I can make out, this was the first appearance at a concert (and a big venue with a thousand strong audience) of Mary Maria as a performer (she had M.C.’d the Village Theater performance in February 1967) alongside Albert. Finally, the concert occurred after the bad reviews for New Grass and Music is the Healing Force of the Universe were in, so Albert had no idea what kind of reception he was going to get. As it happened the response of the French crowd was fairly ecstatic, especially when ‘Ghosts’ appeared - Albert’s final recording of this iconic tune. But the concert as a whole is a bit ragged. There is one very odd track - listed as ‘Revelations 3’ (all the new material is designated thus) - where Mary Maria is ‘freaking out’ on her soprano sax, while Albert plays a very simple, monotonous tune over the top. I think it’s an attempt to replicate the effect of Don Ayler playing simple trumpet lines beneath his brother’s ‘freak out’, but it doesn’t work. And the final encore, ‘Speaking in Tongues’ is ... well it’s rubbish, really.
But the second concert is spectacular. True, we still have to suffer ‘A Man Is Like A Tree’ and the rest of the ‘poetry’, but there seems to be less Mary Maria on the second night. However the main difference is the arrival of Call Cobbs. Not particularly for his musical addition to the mix, but I think just his presence calmed the situation down and allowed Albert Ayler to give of his best. Call Cobbs had been with Albert since almost the beginning of his recording career, from Swing Low Sweet Spiritual in 1964. Not a permanent member of his band, but contributing tracks to Spirits Rejoice, The Village Concerts, Love Cry and New Grass. So the second concert opens with ‘Truth Is Marching In’ and includes a rollicking version of ‘Holy Family’ and other favourites. There’s even a good Ayler vocal track on ‘Thank God For Women’, which is just very jolly.
The Italian bootleg version of the first concert, later released by ESP as Live on the Riviera, selects the best tracks and changes the order, so that the concert seems to end with a triumphant version of ‘Ghosts’. At least that’s how I reacted to it when I first heard it. Just as I’d reacted to the first volume of the Shandar release of Nuits de la Fondation Maeght (I never managed to get the second volume until it appeared on CD). The Shandar release took all of its tracks from the second concert, and Volume One did not feature Mary Maria at all. After all the talk about Ayler selling-out with New Grass, the Shandar release did seem to set the world aright again. Now we can hear the full concerts, maybe we have to revise that first opinion. I feel it’s a bit like those endless Director’s Cuts and different versions of Blade Runner, where you end up just wanting to see the original theatrical cut with the studio-imposed film noir narration and the codged together happy ending with the out-take from The Shining which makes no sense at all. For the first concert, I’d be happy with the Italian bootleg version of Live on the Riviera. But for the second concert, no that’s indispensable. There’s too much great Ayler saxophone on there. So, many thanks to Zev Feldman, Jeff Lederer and Elemental Music for finally bringing these concerts out of the vaults and into the sunshine again.
That’s the review, but there are a couple of addenda relating to the Revelations booklet. This contains a number of pieces about Albert Ayler from various musicians, one of whom is the late Allen Blairman. I’ve lifted that entire and placed it below, so hopefully that’s o.k. I remember trying to contact Mr. Blairman in the early years of this site (when I still did things like that) and got nowhere, so I just wanted, finally, to add his voice here. Before that though, there is another item in the booklet, in Ben Young’s piece, which is a bit troubling. No matter our opinion of Mary Maria, it is a fact that she deserves a whole lot of credit for the concerts at the Fondation Maeght, yet there’s very little information about her in the booklet, beyond Jeff Lederer’s description of the tracks on the album. She is also mentioned on the final page in this dedication:
“Dedicated to the memory of Albert Ayler, Mary Parks and Call Cobbs.”
(Allen Blairman died just after Revelations was released). Which implies that Mary Maria (Parks) has died. Which could explain why this album could finally be released - for years, according to Bernard Stollman, Mary Maria’s lawyers were in a dispute with the Ayler Estate about the release of the Fondation Maeght film. So, who gets her royalties? I did hear that she had a daughter. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, what does disturb me is the following bit in Ben Young’s piece:
“So entered Mary Parks. ... She was his companion in and out of music, sometime concert producer, his managing agent, and eventually co-star. They were married in 1969. We don’t know everything and much of what has been said is supported only by her testimony. But several dimensions are clear: Mary Maria was very ambitious and intensely proud of her own music. “They’re not going crazy over Albert’s work—let’s face it. It’s my work they want, because my work sells.” Parks spoke 30 years after the Maeght performances. “All of this work is mine. I wrote it; I composed it. The New Grass album I wrote before I met Albert.” It’s not perfectly clear who wrote the melodies, but Parks’s words for that 1968 record were apparently the seed that Albert arranged. (That disclaimer that Albert speaks on New Grass? Mary Maria tells us she wrote that, too.) As she tells it, the mistrust and mistreatment between artists and producers on that project would have been enough to sink the relationship with Impulse!, and yet it didn’t. “Next, Albert wanted to record my Music Is the Healing Force. I said, ‘You’ve got to be out of your mind! They took my work, and they want more of my work!’ He said, “It’ll be different this time.’ He just went crazy over all of my work—A Man Is Like a Tree, my [Oh!] Love of Life, my Water Music, that I created in Prospect Park on my horn.” In their Brooklyn Park sessions of 1968 and 1969 Ayler and Parks began laying the collaborative foundations that we hear on the Maeght recordings. Parks had an artistic vision that she thought could benefit from Albert Ayler’s thrust. Very few from the Ayler camp look on their music this way; skeptics label her an opportunist catching a rising star as propulsion for her own work. Parks even allows that Ayler understood and was enabling this : “I don’t know; he just fell in love with my work. He told me if he didn’t record it, no one would ever record it.” perhaps that is so.
Elsewhere in these annotations Jeff Lederer tells the story instant-by-instant; Mary Maria recaps what she heard in the midst of it:
“They go nuts for my work—even at the Maeght Foundation. The people stood up and screamed, wouldn’t let me leave the stage. To me, it was a beautiful thing for Albert. But then Albert said, ‘Look at this! . . .’ I said, “What are you talking about?” “I have blown my brains out—even spit up blood—and never got any decent recognition.’ And he said, ‘Add you and your work, and I’m a star. Ain’t that something?’ I said, ‘Listen, I’m glad I was able to participate in order for you to get this kind of response.’”
Suffice to say, there’s a lot to study here, and still more to muse on.”
So, musing on, I have problems with the marriage in 1969. The reason Mary Maria was always in dispute with the ‘Ayler Estate’, is that Albert never divorced Arlene Ayler, and so now the ‘Estate’ is managed by their daughter, Desiree Ayler-Fellows. So, was Albert a bigamist? Or was there an illegal Mexican divorce (oft mentioned, never proved) in the mix. Also, I muse where this interview with Mary Maria came from. Given the mention of 30 years since the Fondation Maeght, it was presumably conducted in 2000. By Ben Young himself? Or is it published somewhere? Also, the explanation always given as to why the material on Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe and The Last Album is credited solely to Mary Maria Parks, is that Albert and Don had made a bad deal with Impulse in regard to their composer credits and the financial rewards therein, so to avoid the money which would flood in from the likes of ‘A Man Is Like A Tree’ going into the wrong hands, Albert suggested removing his name. Having read Ashley Kahn’s book about Impulse, The House That Trane Built, I can quite believe that story (there seemed to be Bob Thiele as the friendly face of Impulse backed up by the less friendly money men). I am not questioning Mary Maria’s role as collaborator, but I think she stretches a point to say everything on the last three Impulse albums was all her own work and Albert was just the saxophone player. Still, we must keep on musing. Now is not the time to just take Ted Joans’ opinion.
‘A PURE ARTIST; ALLEN BLAIRMAN REFLECTS ON PLAYING WITH ALBERT AYLER
I LIVED ON AVENUE B, the Lower East Side. My next neighbor was Wilbur Ware. Wilbur Ware lived around the corner from Philly Joe Jones, right up the street was Eddie Blackwell, around the corner was Archie Shepp and Richie Havens, Sun Ra, so this was like a haven for me. I would always be looking out of my window, and maybe in the morning and I just open a window and I’d be looking at the people. Then I look down and there’d be Billy Higgins. Yeah. And I’d say, “Billy Higgins, you want to have breakfast?” And he’d come up. I met also Andrew Hill like that. These were my neighbors for three years. Philly Joe Jones, Wilbur Ware. I saw Hank Mobley. I played with Kenny Dorham. I met him in a restaurant. He just said, “Do you want to play with me?” “Oh yeah. Yeah, sure.” Just like this. So I was always around and meeting all these different musicians. It was a great thing, better than Pittsburgh. New York was a haven at that time. One day I was just looking out of the window and there was Albert. I’d said, “Hey, you want to have something to eat with me?” and he came up. We were having food together. We were talking about music and he liked what I was talking about. I was into free music in ’58. I had a group, a trio with only saxophone and a poet, Gaston Neall, a great poet, and Kenny Fischer, a saxophonist. I told him I was into that. I know about this thing. And he said, “Do you want to play with me?” And I said, “Yeah, that would be great.” That’s how we met—from me looking out of the window. The concerts at Maeght Foundation were beautiful. The first concert we did, this was very, a lot of energy. Very beautiful. A lot of sensitivity and a lot of listening to each other, not just “I do my thing and you do your thing.” No, no, no. We were listening to each other. I think he liked that. And I tell you this, when I looked around, because I could hear Albert was playing, blowing these harmonics. It was unbelievable. I opened my eyes, because my eyes were closed. I opened, and Steve Tintweiss was standing there looking. He was standing there holding the bass. I think he had blood on his hands. And Call Cobbs was hanging over the piano. Playing with Mary Maria was beautiful. Albert would be blowing a thing and then she would jump up and she was like a female Coltrane. She was going in that direction, because she had just started playing that soprano. She wasn’t competing. She was burning. Steve Tintweiss, I love him. It was good to have him because usually I felt like a youngest brother, but with him I felt like he was like the younger brother for me. So I felt really secure with him. I felt good with this guy. Yeah. He was quiet and very big. And really, I felt him and I felt really there’s a lot of peace. He had a lot of peace in him; very easy flowing. No stress. We were pretty close there because I’m very quiet and he was quiet. The audience was wonderful. They were applauding through everything we did. Albert was playing “La Marseillaise” and they were going crazy. And when we finished, they all ran up on the bandstand. Coming out of New York, I’d never played in an American club where anybody come up and ask me, “Can you sign an autograph?” But there, they were like a hundred people, hundreds coming up to us and asking, “Can you sign, can you sign?” What I liked about playing in France was it was recognized that you were dealing with art—Charlie Parker said, “I’m an artist”—Lester Young, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker were all artists. They were in it for the love of art. Listen to Ornette Coleman. He came in with pure art from what he’s doing. He’s a pure artist. Clifford Brown, beautiful. John Coltrane. And Albert. Albert Ayler touched my life, period. I can’t really put that in words. He touched me spiritually and you cannot put a word on that. We were intuitively or spiritually in tune. It’s like Coltrane with Elvin. Elvin was asked about Coltrane and he said, “It’s like I was touched by an angel.” That’s what I felt with Albert.
Excerpted from an interview with Allen Blairman conducted by Zev Feldman on July 29, 2021.’
[From the Revelations booklet.]
Roy Morris emailed me about an interview with Alan Silva in a 1999 edition of Cadence which mentioned Albert Ayler. He kindly sent me the relevant pages and I extracted the following. I found Silva’s comments about the possibilities of Free Jazz musicians crossing over to the more populated pastures of rock music back in the hippy-time very interesting, especially in light of the above.
From Cadence (July 1999, Vol. 25, No. 7 - pp. 11,12, 14,18)
That’s when I officially joined Cecil’s band as the regular bass player, after the Blue Note date. We did Unit Structures, and then Conquistador. CAD: Did that band work much? A.S.: Uh, no. Those albums were all done in one grouping. Then, me, Cecil, Jimmy Lyons, and the drummer, Andrew Cyrille, we went to Europe in 1966. We did a record called Student Studies, and Cecil was, at that point, being brought to Europe to do his life story, for some radio/television project, in France. So we stayed in France for maybe four months, doing this television program. And there we played a lot. Then we came back in 1967, and I stayed with Cecil off and on in that period. This was the time I got involved in Albert Ayler’s group, although the time was not all centered around one band. But I really believed in the band concept, as opposed to being fully available for anybody. CAD: How did you get hooked up with him? A.S.: I’d known Ayler since his early days in New York. The first time I actually played with him was on West 4th Street. I was playing with this piano player named Valdo Williams, who was an obscure mainstream piano player working on the strip, right across from where the Blue Note is now. We used to work in the back room, and late one night, this saxophone player comes in, and I thought, That looks like Albert Ayler. And he says, “Can I play a tune?” I said, “Yeah, go ahead, play a tune. What tune you want to play?” And he says, “Well, I’ll play ‘Ornithology.’” So he plays ‘Ornithology’ perfectly, I mean, really in a bebop mode, incredible. He takes this first, very strong bebop chorus, second chorus, and then he starts to do these fantastic things on the saxophone. Screaming qualities, and vocal qualities, on the lower and upper registers, and it was really cooking, we were really burning. With perfect pitch, his intonation was incredible. I said, “This guy’s brilliant, what is he doing?” I was really impressed. But the club owner wasn’t impressed (laughs), the club owner says, “What’s that cat smokin’?,” ’cause this was like a cocktail lounge. This was the last tune of the night anyway, so I was talking to him, and he said, “Yeah, I’m on my way to Europe. I’m going there with Sunny Murray.” I guess he was going to Denmark. So the next time he calls me up, it was to do the Village Theater concert, which was where he was getting ready to be produced on Impulse. And his involvement with the string idea, which he’d heard me play, in terms of the upper register bowing and so forth, he really liked that. The next time he called me, it was to make a new band that he was going to have for Impulse. I was impressed that he had chosen me and Milford Graves to make this Love Cry album. And this album was very important to Albert, ’cause it was on a major label, and John Coltrane had passed, and I think Impulse thought that this guy was going to be the next saxophone position. And me and Milford were like the next Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison. I thought it was a really fantastic date. We were told to go to California to do this big concert at the Fillmore West, at this time. You have to realize that Ayler, for me, was one of the possible crossover artists, especially in this particular period, when rock was just beginning to formulate. And the group thing was more important than the individual, and the rock guys were able to create these groups. This was an important thing in this period, about what free Jazz proposed, at the same time that rock music was being formulated. That free Jazz proposed a group sound, you know? And that we could actually be a new music tool. I think Bob Thiele thought that Albert, with his blues base and his Jazz base, could reach out to a broader audience. And Albert had a spiritual message; at the time of the Vietnam war and the whole anti-war movement, I felt that, as a social artist, he was very important. A Love Supreme had already made gold, and it was a spirit; I think Albert had a real accessible saxophone style at the time, and even the band we had was accessible. We made a session after that, and did a club date at Slug’s, but then I didn’t see Albert anymore. Because he chose to make New Grass, which was six months later, and that was the end of that dream. CAD: Why do you say that? A.S.: Because he shifted to guitar, his wife singing, a more blues-based sound. Me and Call Cobbs, we were more or less an avant-garde rhythm section, with a strong feeling for time. But if he wanted to be a crossover artist, he had to get into a rhythm and blues number. And we were talking about psychedelics, b ut I think Bob Thiele didn’t need that real free rhythm that me and Milford were doing. But I believe we could have gone over. CAD: Was it Albert’s decision, or Thiele’s decision? A.S.: I think it was in between. I only know that, after we finished Love Cry, we were supposed to begin a tour. And Bob Thiele liked this record a lot, and the reason some of the tunes were real short was that we wanted to be on radio. But I guess you’d have to ask some other people how he formulated that, because he died, and we have no information. But I know, from the point of view of being in the studio, what impact that music could have had. But we’ll never know. I don’t think that New Grass worked very well, as a crossover. The last thing I did with that type of gig, with a crossover audience, was when Cecil Taylor went out to the Coast in 1968, to do the Fillmore West, with Frank Wright and Eddie Gale. We played the Berkeley Jazz Festival, and then we were artists in residence at Stanford University. And then we did this famous concert at the Fillmore West, in which we played opposite the Yardbirds, with the Pablo Light Show. It was fantastic, we had about three thousand, four thousand of those crazy kids, liking the music. CAD: They were into it? A.S.: Oh yeah, they were into it, they were really into it. We did an hour-and-a-half show. Even the guy from the Fillmore came up to us and said, “This is fantastic, better than Aretha Franklin,” know what I mean? So, at one point, I knew that the public was ready. I heard Jimi Hendrix, and I knew that we could capture this market too. To most of the kids in this particular period, sound was interesting, as long as you could keep it moving. I think Leonard Feather wrote a review of that band in the summer of 1968, and I’m still trying to find that review. That would be interesting to research; one of the founders of free Jazz, doing a concert at Fillmore West, and having it go over so well. And I know that, one year before, Albert was thinking about the same thing. And in that band, you had one of the most fantastic saxophone players of my generation, Frank Wright. This guy could really bring it off. I felt that some of these high level bands could go over, get on the circuit. I mean, we played against the Yardbirds, and the Yardbirds thought, ‘Wow, this is a fantastic band!’ So for my point of view, 1968 was a crucial point for free music.
. . .
But when you come over to Europe, which has a tradition of supporting avant-garde ideas, it’s very easy for you to be avant-garde - because you’re not avant-garde, you’re just contemporary. So, ESP, from an American’s point of view, was brilliant, the impact that it had. That’s why I made the Center Of The World recordings, because I wanted artist control. I wanted to produce my own music. I wanted to produce my own music. I was not interested in being commercial; I was interested in the record, as an artist. The records I made, like the ESP one, we tried to make them as an art project. Which means that phonograph records are capable of being art objects. If Albert’s music had been sold in art galleries, or sound galleries, instead of being sold in the distribution chain - they’re competing with the price of the artwork, relative to commercial artwork. In the long run, that’s what’s happening today, after being in the record business for twenty-five years. Back in the 1950’s. you’d have to sell at least ten thousand copies of a Jazz record to get a contract. Albert was not selling ten thousand, he was selling, like, one thousand. ESP was able to pioneer all the little companies that we have today. We have much more of a possibility of documenting our music today because of that. I think that Bernard may have wanted to be commercial, if he could market it enough. But, like CBS, when they tried to market some free Jazz of Burton Greene - it was a market problem. It’s like trying to market John Cage, or Terry Riley, or any other kind of music that’s so marginal. CAD: Were you aware that CBS had plans to acquire the BYG/Actuel catalog at one point? A.S.: No! I didn’t know that. CAD: Yeah, in the ’70’s, apparently, they planned to purchase the catalog, and then they found out that some of the stuff was what they considered bootlegged, so they passed on it. A.S.: Oh yeah, yeah - I heard that story. Some stuff they had was from Savoy, I remember that. But most of the stuff they produced themselves. When BYG came to America - and I heard they did fairly well, in distribution and advertising - that was like a coup d’état, a French label recording American music in Paris, and then selling it back to America. It was great, it was like the Beatles recording in England, and selling us our own music. The Beatles’ music was primarily some rhythm and blues music, so they were selling us back our own product.
from Dirk Goedeking to end with. This photo of the Brothers Ayler has been on this site for a while now, but in a fuzzy newspaper clipping from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This is a pristine version of Edward J. Solotko’s photograph taken from the twitter feed of the Cleveland Public Library.
There’s been a lot of reading and not much music this month, so here’s a Louis Moholo record called Spirits Rejoice!. Dirk included it with some information about the South African band of the same name from around the same time which I mentioned a while back. The band’s name came from Ayler, but whether Louis Moholo was referencing the band or the Ayler LP, I don’t know. But, whatever the connection, this is great.