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April 1 2019
Down among the bassists
Waiting for an interview with one of Albert Ayler’s bass players and two come along at once. Both united by the involvement of Pierre Crépon.
In the current issue of Point of Departure there’s a wide-ranging interview with Bill Folwell which was conducted by Marc Chaloin on 12th May, 1998. Chaloin’s transcript was then edited by Pierre Crépon, with the help of the original cassette recording. There’s a terrific amount of detail in the interview, and, in particular, a great section on Ayler’s European tour in November, 1966. In the true spirit of Brexit, I’ll just quote this bit:
Folwell: No, that wasn’t in England because when we got to England all hell broke loose. We got off the plane, and at the airport, I got through the gates, no problem, but they held Albert and Don and Beaver [Harris], and searched them. Took them in and strip searched them. ... So, he was madder than hell. I was sitting out in the bus waiting for him, it took an hour and a half. When he got out, he was just mad. And they took us to our little hotel room where we were staying and it was cold, and he was pissed, and he, Beaver and Donald just went off into the city, vanished. Samson was like a catalyst, you know, he made things happen. He encouraged them to be belligerent, “hey, they shouldn’t treat you like that, man ...” And all of a sudden they just went, kind of blew up and vanished. We had to go to the concert, they taped us at the [London] School of Economics or whatever, and they weren’t there for the rehearsal, they just had vanished, nobody knew where they were. ... The concert was taped, but they hated it, you know, they just didn’t know what the hell we were doing. I think they just destroyed the tapes. And I was suffering, and cold and miserable, I was just ready to go home, you know.
Mutawaf Shaheed was an old Cleveland friend of Albert and Don, who played bass on the La Cave sessions in April, 1966. Pierre Crépon visited Cleveland a few months ago, met up with Richard Koloda and they interviewed Mutawaf Shaheed on 2nd January, 2019. That conversation has now been published in The Wire. It’s prefaced by the following:
‘“My father used to say ‘You stupid bastards, you can’t play! That’s no music!’ But what am I gonna say? Before I got the bass, I had a Buescher 400 tenor saxophone, I’d just bought it from a guy. One day Albert came by, he had his Selmer Mark IV, and he said, ‘Let me see your horn, man.’ He looked at the horn and stuff, started playing it. I said, ‘Well... that’s the end of that!’ You dig? I went and sold it back to the guy. And then I got the bass.”’
I’m also glad that Don Ayler’s story about travelling to the Arctic Circle is confirmed in the interview - I was always a bit dubious about that.
Dirk Goedeking sent me the details about another Ayler cassette release from Personal Affair:
Bells Cassette Tape PAESP-011. ESP-Disk' Cassette Collection vol.11. Limited edition (200) ferric tape (Normal) with Dolby. Side A: Bells (19:45) Side B: Bells (19:45) Same material on both sides.
Dirk added this note:
“The music stands without doubt for itself. But the single sided record with the very special round artwork has its own aesthetic. This can be transfered on a (round) CD release, but a cassette version is somehow very different. At least the outstanding 20 minutes are not filled up with other recordings.”
He also came across a strange item on ebay, which I don’t think we need add to the discography. Purporting to be a reel-to-reel tape of Spiritual Unity, I agree with Dirk that it’s on the dodgy side, particularly given its Russian origin. There are quite a few similar items listed, although only the photos of the front of the boxes are changed.
I have to confess not a name I knew before it turned up on an ‘Ayler-search’ (and to avoid any confusion, not the villain in the new series of Line of Duty which began last night) but there’s a very long and discursive interview with him on The Rumpus, conducted by Rick Moody - ‘Swinging Modern Sounds #93: Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy’ - the final paragraph of which is this:
‘I’ve been working on a few projects of late. As I mentioned above, although I’d thought it impossible, I’m actually digging into a follow-up, structured like Pick Up the Pieces, about the 80s, tentatively titled Sing No Evil: An Apology for Eighties Music. I’m finding it a fascinating reevaluation, also confirmation that it was a bit of a dire moment for mainstream pop. And I’ve been working on a small, poetic book on Albert Ayler’s death. There are three weeks in which his whereabouts are officially unaccounted for before his body was discovered. That unaccounted time is, for me, tragic and very suggestive. Coincidentally, I’ve been invited to contribute liner notes to a box set of Bengt “Frippe” Nordström, the saxophonist who first recorded Ayler. I’ll be working on that soon, too.’
Sonny Rollins and Impulse
I was reading Eric Nisenson’s book about Sonny Rollins, Open Sky, and came across this passage concerning his brief association with the Impulse label. I just thought I’d add it here in case it sheds a little more light on Albert Ayler’s state of mind during the latter period of his career.
‘Everybody sort of knew each other in those days, so I knew they were interested in signing major jazz musicians. Coltrane never tried to convince me to sign with Impulse. I think I just realized that they were doing a good job with him, and so I thought that maybe it would be good for me too.
Sonny “had high hopes about working for Impulse,” but his attitude changed:
It turned out that they were a rough group of people, and they really screwed me out of stuff. Not only that, the way they did it—these guys were really just thugs. Their lawyers were really tough. I never had any problems with Bob Thiele. Bob was a very accommodating fellow. . . . I did have problems with the ABC lawyers and business people who twisted my arm while I was doing business with them. I was kind of naive and I didn’t have anybody representing me at the time when I was doing contracts and working out a royalty agreement and all that kind of thing. I really got used.’
A couple of weird ones - an Ayler rap on ‘Thank God For Women’ and ‘Spirit Dance (for Albert Ayler)’ by Melbourne artist, The Man From Atlantis. A recent concert by Universal Indians, featuring Joe McPhee, from Schlachthof, Wels, Austria. And, finally, a version of ‘Ghosts’. This one starts with a recitation by Michel Edelin and features Steve Potts on saxophone (I remember seeing him playing with Steve Lacy at a concert in the garden of the Victoria and Albert Museum back in 1973).
March 1 2019
My Name Is Albert Ayler
The website for Kasper Collin’s 2005 documentary, My Name Is Albert Ayler, is no more. Part of the monthly ritual for this site was checking that site to see if there was any news of a DVD release, so that’s a couple of minutes a month I’ve saved. Steve Tintweiss posted a copy of the film on the Ayler group facebook page last month, so for those who haven’t seen it, it’s still there now.
Kiyoshi Koyama (12/2/1936 - 3/2/2019)
Kiyoshi Koyama, the Japanese jazz journalist, has died at the age of 82. His interview with Albert Ayler was included with the Holy Ghost box set and is available below. Steve Tintweiss posted the following on his facebook page:
“Perhaps the most important jazz journalist in Japan, his recorded interviews legacy has been donated to NYU. As longtime editor of Swing Journal which bestowed the 1971 Silver Award to the 2 volumes of Albert Ayler Nuits de la Fondation Maeght he invited me to an interview when he was in New York after Albert Ayler had died. Although never published, it provided me important International perspective, and particularly what could have been the historical impact on free jazz with the pending Albert Ayler tour of Japan. R.I.P.”
Last month Richard Koloda posted an appeal on the Ayler facebook page (repeated here) about the Ayler concerts in Montreal in August 1967. Mark Miller replied and as well as providing a couple of newspaper ads, also pointed Richard in the direction of the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec, where I came across a preview and a review of Ayler’s appearance at L’Atelier du Jazz.
Le Devoir (Montreal) (29 August, 1967 - p.10)
La Presse (Montreal) (2 September, 1967 - p.34)
So, click the pictures to be transported back to Montreal in 1967 (complete with a photo of Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner and the news of the death of Brian Epstein). All in French of course (apart from, for some reason, the poster for The Dirty Dozen) but the days are long gone when I would have painstakingly transcribed the reviews for the Archives. However, I would point you in their direction for Stu Broomer’s excellent memoir of Ayler’s Canadian concert from a 1997 issue of Coda.
One thing that did occur to me about this particular gig of Albert’s - what happened to Bill Davis? Apparently he’s still playing bass with the Sun Ra Arkestra:
And talking of bass players, Dirk Goedeking came across the following in Perry Robinson’s biography, The Traveler:
‘In February 1965 when we came back from the army the three of us brought about twenty tobacco pouches filled with Red. We pasted them under our army uniforms, and since we had to come through the army checkpoint it was cool because we knew they would never check. Tom, Bill and I rented a house on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn on army unemployment, and we used to have people come over and play, great players like Paul Bley and Albert Ayler. We used to play every day. Bill had a lot of great recording equipment that we used. It was the most idyllic thing. Our group was playing so high, and I wanted everyone to hear this music. We did performances in Brooklyn Heights in different friends’ houses. Our performances were always interesting because we were a high art group with many new tunes and concepts. I brought my teacher Eric Simon to hear us, and once we played at my Uncle Joe Wortis’ house. Everyone said, “The music is very interesting, but we don’t understand it.” But they knew something was happening, and some of them really enjoyed it, like Eric Simon. We played in New York City as well; we had gigs at places like the Astor Place Playhouse, and we did a live gig on WBAI for Bob Fass’ show “Radio Unnamable” in 1966. I didn’t have any tapes of the group, but just recently Bill sent me a copy of the WBAI show, and we sound terrific. Bill has other tapes as well, maybe one day we can get some of them out. The Uni Trio was a very special group, and a very important part of my development.’
“In Pt. 2 at 14:10 Eggs And Rice, 19:34 untitled, 24:50 untitled, 36:10 Peace. In Pt. 4 at 53:17 untitled. Track 3 might be Hiroshima (Robinson plays flute). Peace, an Ornette Coleman composition, was recorded in Panama on 08.11.64. Folwell sings on track 5.”
The Way Ahead
Named after an Archie Shepp LP but influenced by Albert Ayler, The Way Ahead are a new free jazz group from Scandinavia.
First, in a piece about clarinet and mandolin player, Andy Statman:
‘In the musical ferment of the late ’60s, influences were coming from every direction. “I found that bluegrass musicians were also listening to jazz players like Joe Venuti and Django Reinhart, so I started listening to that stuff. I was also listening to Mingus and Monk and Bird. I turned on the radio one afternoon and they were playing a record called Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village. It really spoke to me.”’
‘Stein: Then one became aware of Burroughs and Corso and everybody. I started going down to Greenwich Village and everybody would show up in Washington Square on Sunday afternoon, and it felt like that was freedom. Suddenly, just to be there was to have entered into a world of possibility. And after I heard Ornette Coleman in concert at Town Hall, I started making big signs all over my room in Arabic letters that said, “The world does not exist,” and “God save Ornette Coleman.” [Laughs.] It came from a Sunday morning teenage religious program, in which teenagers from all around the world were brought in to talk about their religions. And there was a boy from Burma talking about Buddhism and saying, “Well, you know, the world doesn’t exist.” That made a big impression.
Rail: So free jazz really gave you the form and energy that you were looking for at that point?
Stein: The truth is, what really got me into Ornette was just the immediate soulfulness of it. That it was so fucking direct. It wasn’t like Howl, which was ripping into you. Ornette ripped into you, but it ripped into you at the level of immediate affect. That wail—the “eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry“ at the end of Howl. There was that saxophone cry. And Albert Ayler, even more so in that regard.’
I haven’t mentioned the wonderful world of copyright for a while, but then I came across this.
The youtube roundup
This one seems familiar, but I can’t find it on the site (although the site search thingy is not that good).
Straying a bit, I noticed that a whole slew of Charles Tyler albums had appeared on youtube last month, courtesy of Emilio Valdes. He’s followed those up with some from Frank Lowe, although if you look further down his list, his earlier preference seemed to be Sixties’ psychedelia.
And then there’s this:
Again, I had a look on the site to see if I’d mentioned this back in 2017, but ... nothing. But I did find the following information on an events site - this is via google translate, which does seem to be getting better:
“HIMERA Ö-Club #1: ALBERT AYLER 81v Live: AAVEET, AMON DÜDE
Bar Ö, Turku 15.7. Vapaa pääsy! (Free entry!)
The birthday of the mysterious, radical and tragically young saxophonist Albert Ayler (13 July) has been celebrated in the form of free jazz concerts in Tampere and Helsinki for several summers. This year, Turku will be in the show, as Himera and Mental Alaska will work together at the Bar Ö event. The concert is at the same time a starting point for the regular event activity at the Himeran Bar Ö.
The long-awaited tribute composition AAVEET performs its first appearance in Ö. The quintet consists of the hottest core of Finnish free jazz. Like many Ayler configurations, the group has two string players.
Composition: Matti Luokkanen: saxophone, Hermanni Yli-Tepsa: violin, Tero Kemppainen: bass, Jaakko Tolvi: drums, Topias Tiheäsalo: guitar.
The second performer of the evening is AMON DÜDE, Arttu Partinen, who prepares custom-made Ayler music de-reconstructing tape collage.”
And there I would leave it, apart from this photo which Dirk Goedeking sent me. I don’t post everything that Dirk sends and this one I was going to ignore since, nice as it is, I couldn’t work out where it would fit. But, checking the link to the site where he’d found it, I discovered that it had been posted there by ‘mentalalaska’ with the following message:
“Happy Albert Ayler's birthday to each and everyone! Celebrating with concerts in Turku Sat 15/7 at Bar Ö (Aaveet, Amon Dude) and in Helsinki Wed 19/7 at Roihuvuoren Rio (Mikko Innanen, Amon Dude)!”
One should never ignore a coincidence.
February 1 2019
Dirk Goedeking found the following video of the reformed UNI Trio from Perry Robinson’s Book Party in New York (probably in 2002) featuring the original line-up of Robinson (clarinet), Bill Folwell (bass) and Tom Price (drums). According to Dirk, “This was their line-up when Albert met Bill in the trio's house in Brooklyn '65. The featured tracks are all from the 60s: ‘Lullaby of the Elements’, ‘Blasting Off’ and ‘Unisphere’.”
"After recording 'Suite for the End of the Earth,' which consisted of composed music, and having only played together as a group a few times, we wanted to see what we would get playing totally free. There was such a good vibe in the room with the four of us that it made playing so easy, the ideas flowed, I could respond to the sounds around me and the natural ebb and flow of conversational music happened. For me it is a spiritual thing, experiencing a wordless connection to others, when the music comes together and reveals the common thread in all of us."
Back in December I mentioned an upcoming release from another of Ayler’s bassists, Steve Tintweiss, and he’s now posted this on the Ayler facebook group:
“Hot off the presses! First release by the Spacelight Band goes on sale January 20th exclusively on Amazon.com for collectors on 45rpm 12” vinyl. Steve Tintweiss originals Whistle Stop/I Lust You Tour b/w Ash Dung Blues Bowl. Featuring Byard Lancaster, Rowan Storm, Ric Frank, Lou Grassi, and Steve Tintweiss From Labor Day Concert 1992 at Forest Park Bandshell.”
Did not play with Albert Ayler - or did he? There’s an intriguing paragraph in an article about a new Dolphy release in TheNew Yorker:
“At the same time, “Musical Prophet” catches Dolphy perched on the edge of a precipice of his own seeking. For all the demanding intellectual organization of his performances, his work always stretched tensely between sound and sense. Not only did he have a distinctive tone on all of his instruments, but his search for his own world of sound was as crucial as his search for notes—and his quest for a sound that was more than one note, or wasn’t necessarily a note at all but perhaps even a shout, a growl, a roar, or a cry, wove throughout his work and occasionally blazed forth in extraordinary outbursts. The musician of the times who most ardently pursued that ideal, Albert Ayler, was also in Europe in 1964, and Dolphy, who had just left Mingus’s band, was planning to join Ayler’s group. But, in West Berlin, in June of that year, he collapsed in a diabetic coma and never emerged. It went undiagnosed: local doctors reportedly assumed that Dolphy, as a black jazz musician, had a drug problem, and never checked his blood sugar. (Dolphy didn’t use drugs; for that matter, he didn’t drink or smoke cigarettes.)”
Steve Tintweiss also noticed it and commented on his facebook page:
“Wonderful article on Eric Dolphy in the New Yorker. Includes link to an extensive Spotify playlist. I didn’t know that Dolphy was set to join Albert Ayler in Europe in 1964 had he survived.”
I was also taken by the opening sentence in Richard Brody’s article, ‘How Eric Dolphy Sparked My Love Of Jazz’:
“I got into jazz because of Dave Brubeck, but jazz got into me because of Eric Dolphy.”
In my case, you’d have to swop Brubeck for Oscar Peterson and Dolphy for Ornette Coleman, but it’s a really neat description of what I believe is a fairly common experience when it comes to jazz.
So, perhaps Richard Koloda knows if there’s any truth to that passing remark about Dolphy planning to join Ayler in 1964. As I’ve been mentioning occasionally since this site went online getting on for 19 years ago (bloody ’ell) Richard has been writing a book about the Ayler brothers. Now he’s in the final stages, going through the tedious business of getting permissions for quotes from other sources, etc. He’s also trying to clear up a few loose ends and posted the following on the Ayler facebook group:
“As many of you know I am tracing down copyright holders to get permission for my bio of Albert Ayler so that a publisher will buy it. Some things I am still looking for, so I hope you can help. (1) In Patti Smith’s bio, Just Kids, she mentions reviewing Ayler records for underground newspapers in New York. I was hoping someone who has access to the New York Public Library could look up the reviews, I can at least add them to my bibliography. (2) I'd like to contact Patti Smith so that I can email her a copy of my manuscript, in the hopes that I can get a blurb that would interest a publisher. (3) I would like to get a copy of the Yellow Springs News to see if there is an advertisement for the Antioch College concert - as well as a review. (4) Anyone who has contacts in Montreal (or can use the LIbrary of Congress) I am looking for an advertisement (and maybe a review) of the 1967 Montreal appearances. Even the Revenant box has only an approximate date (5) I already looked through the 1967 Rochester papers at the Rochester Public Library - and cannot find a reference to the 1967 Rochester appearances. Anyone who can provide a reference? Fortunately I did find a review of the 1970 Springfield Concert - which I am hoping to get copyright clearance to use.”
If you can help Richard with any of the above, let me know and I’ll put you in touch.
A couple of photos
Dirk Goedeking came across these - Don Ayler in Florence in 1981 (photo by Enrico Romero) and an Albert Ayler Impulse flyer - click the pix to make them bigly.
And finally ...
A couple of things from youtube. I don’t usually bother listing albums that turn up on youtube, but this one did come up in an Ayler search and I thought it worth a mention. It’s a compilation from The Wire of tracks from the ESP catalogue, including ‘Ghosts’ from Spiritual Unity, entitled Faith & Power. And the other is this:
January 1 2019
Perry Robinson (17/9/1938 - 2/12/2018)
On 2nd December Perry Robinson passed away at the age of 80. He was one of the few clarinetists to make his mark in the heyday of Free Jazz back in the 60s and early 70s, recording with Archie Shepp and the JCOA among others. Although he never recorded with Albert Ayler, he did meet him in Spain during Albert’s early sojourn in Europe, and he recalled the meeting in his biography, Perry Robinson: The Traveler. There are obituaries at Jazz Times, The Wire and the Free Jazz Collective. There’s also a nice thread on Organissimo and this rather annoying comment on the Perry Robinson facebook page:
“JazzTimes has finally produced an obituary for Perry. The New York Times was aware of his death but chose not to run one.”
I’d like to thank Matt Smiley for letting me add his transcriptions of Albert Ayler tunes to the site. There are 114 pages of various versions of various tunes, which are available to download here as a zipped file. Matt used them for the concert at FoCoMX (at Fort Collins, Colorado) in April 2018, which is available in 3 parts on youtube. Part 1 (which I added here last June), Part 3, and here’s Part 2:
Harlem Hellfighters: James Reese Europe and The Absence Of Ruin
The third part of Jason Moran’s trilogy of multimedia concerts on the subject of Harlem’s jazz history, featuring the pioneer bandleader James Reese Europe received its American premiere at the Kennedy Center on 8th December. There’s an article about the project on the National Public Radio site and further information on youtube, but the reason I mention it here is this bit from the Washington Post review of the concert:
‘Nor was everything about Europe or ragtime. Moran interwove his tribute with meditations on the ruins of Weeksville — the first, long-forgotten settlement of Brooklyn by African American freedmen — and the relative absence of other African American historical structures. Much of this meditation took place on the aforementioned video screen, with stark video of Weeksville’s crumbling houses and abandoned theater, with Moran, Mateen and Waits sitting among them. But about halfway through the program, tenor saxophonist Brian Settles led the ensemble on a slow, haunting rendition of Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” that highlighted the meditation and abstractly connected it to Europe (via Ayler’s love and use of ragtime and military marches).’
There’s a new Italian trio called Ayler’s Mood, featuring Pasquale Innarella on tenor and soprano sax, Danilo Gallo on bass and Ermanno Baron on drums. There’s a feature on the group on this Italian jazz site.
First of the year
And with apologies to Ronnie Scott.
There’s some strange stuff out there. Dirk Goedeking let me know that those odd mp3 collections from yukiss.ru have now reached No. 6, but they only seem to be available from Japan, so you’re on your own when it comes to negotiating this page. I found a peculiar 6 CD set on a couple of Korean (?) sites:
Forever Jazz Hits comprises various tracks from My Name Is Albert Ayler, Spirits, Goin’ Home, Spiritual Unity, New York Eye And Ear Control, Ghosts (3 tracks then the other three from Vibrations), The Hilversum Session, Spirits Rejoice, In Greenwich Village and a track entitled ‘I’m Determined To Walk With Jesus’ which is listed on the other site as from ‘Live At Riviera’.
A legitimate release, and quite a bargain if you haven’t been collecting jazz albums for 54 years, is Avantgarde-The New Thing in the ‘Milestones of Legends’ series, which contains as one of its 16 albums, Ayler’s The First Recordings Vol. 2. Also good to see the John Lewis Third Stream album, Jazz Abstractions and Jimmy Giuffre’s Western Suite included.
And then there’s this:
Another Dirk find, this one not the usual mp3 download only version of My Name Is Albert Ayler, but a compilation of that, volume 1 of The First Recordings and Spirits.
If you’re still after some real ‘Magic Winter Sounds’ then I’d suggest you try this selection from WGBO, which includes the mash-up of ‘Love Cry’ and ‘Christmas Wrapping’ from Mars Williams’ An Ayler Xmas - Volume 2.
And finally ...
As the Christmas spirit fast departs and over here in embattled little England we deploy gunboats to repel the swarthy foreigners invading our shores - President Trump take note because once you’ve got your wall up, the enemy will find other means to plant his flag on your bit of dirt - we should maybe try to dream ourselves back to happier times and use this as an aide-memoire. David Mittleman sent me the link to a catalogue on boo-hooray.com, where this was item 10. The description is as follows:
“10. Albert Ayler. Untitled Poster.
np: c. 1967. 13 1⁄2 x 19 1⁄2 in. poster, offset litho in color on partially coated stock.
A striking late 1960’s poster, featuring a mirrored image of Ayler playing over a background of pop op dots. No designer is attributed, and Ayler’s name is the only text visible on the poster. Nevertheless, the psychedelic lettering and the stylistic move of putting the photograph of Ayler within a circle is similar to the cover design of the 1967 LP In Greenwich Village on Impulse, which was done by Robert & Barbara Flynn.
Light crease to lower margin, with some toning and a touch of erosion due to insect damage at verso, small abrasions at tips to verso, and a single small pinhole to upper margin. Despite stated faults, the verso is bright and presents well.
Rare: this is the only example of the poster that we have ever seen.”
Not mentioned is the fact that the Ayler/rainbow image was also used on the posters for the concert at New York’s Hotel Diplomat on 28th April, 1968.