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February 1 2020
Albert Ayler Trio 1964 Prophecy Revisited
Last November I indulged in a little speculation concerning the next Ayler release from HatHut in their ezz-thetics series. There was a hint in the sleevenotes of their last Ayler release, Albert Ayler Quartets 1964 Spirits To Ghosts Revisited, that the new one would unite Spiritual Unity with the live recording of the Ayler Trio, Prophecy, which seemed to make sense, but also meant that the iconic cover art of Spiritual Unity would have to be sacrificed. Turns out we were wrong and when Dirk Goedeking pointed me in the direction of the HatHut site, I found the following cover for Albert Ayler Trio 1964 Prophecy Revisited, which combines the original Prophecy with the extra tracks from the same June 14th, 1964 concert at the Cellar Café, New York. The history of the Prophecy album is an odd one. The concert (‘gig’ is probably a more accurate term but I don’t wish to align myself with the hepcats) was recorded by Paul Haines and the original five tracks were released in 1975 as ESP 3030. The additional tracks first surfaced in a German release in 1996, Albert Smiles With Sunny, which was a double CD set (InRespect IR 39 501). Now I’m quoting from my own site:
“The origin of Albert Smiles With Sunny is explained in the following passage in the Sunny Murray interview in the Paris Transatlantic magazine where Mr. Murray discusses the activities of Bernard Stollman, the founder of ESP records:
‘He also released “Prophecy” after Albert died, without Albert's signature, but because I also had a copy of the same tape I released mine through a company in Germany [“Albert Smiles with Sunny”, In Respect 39 501], as a correct move for me and Al. Bernard's so-called son tried to put the stops on my album, and finally did. However my tape was better quality than his and also at the correct speed, so mine sounds better. That tape's thirty-four years old, made up on 91st Street at Cellar Cafe [June 14th, 1964], where Paul Bley and all those cats first started playing, the white avant-garde guys, Barre Phillips, Gary Peacock... Gary Peacock had just gotten in from California to play with Miles, and he wanted to play with us.’
The additional tracks then turned up in the Holy Ghost box set, but with better titles and an added snippet. Following the sequestration of the Holy Ghost material by ESP, the latter released another version in December, 2015 as ESP 4076, Bells & Prophecy: Expanded Edition. A double CD set, Prophecy joined by Bells on the first, the additional six Cellar Café tracks from Holy Ghost on the second. The new HatHut version, being a single CD release, has had to lose one of the shorter tracks (‘Sweet: first variation’ [6:29] on Albert Smiles With Sunny, ‘Spirits (incomplete)’ [6:38] on Holy Ghost), which is a shame. The HatHut version has been remastered and has the blessing of the Ayler Estate.
Albert Ayler: The Early Albums Collection
I’d be very surprised if permission from the Ayler Estate was ever sought for this 4 CD box set, containing 8 early Ayler albums, or should that be 7. Prophecy is in there, but so is Albert Smiles With Sunny.
It’s been a while since I tried to sort out European copyright law as it applied to sound recordings and I don’t really want to go down that rabbit hole again. Briefly: Copyright on recordings used to last for 50 years. This was then extended to 70 years after Sir Cliff Richard and others complained because they had a picture in the attic or something (Sonny Bono did the same thing in America and there the term was extended to 100 years). The new rule came in on 1st November 2013 and only applied to recordings which were still in copyright at that date. So, recordings made before 1st November 1963 were now out of copyright and in the public domain (which explains all those mp3 versions of My Name Is Albert Ayler with the weird titles). However, there is also the matter of the date when recordings are released. So, Prophecy, although recorded in 1964, was not released until 1975 and the extra tracks on Albert Smiles With Sunny didn't appear until 1996, so, technically they are not in the public domain until 2045 and 2066 respectively. But, I'm no lawyer, so maybe I've got this all wrong. And it still doesn't explain why that November 2013 date doesn't seem to apply anymore, since apart from the first three LPs in the set, the rest were recorded in 1964.
But, I’m not complaining. I’ve bought a lot of these sets and being a proud member of the underclass (retired), I appreciate them for their price. What you don’t get with these sets is information. They always include a little booklet which gives a list of the albums and the tracks, but no personnel or recording details. Which is a bit annoying, since it would take them a couple of hours at the most to track down the information and stick that in the booklet. The set is not being released until next month so there’s not a lot of information about it, but the blurb on amazon gives a track list. As with all these box sets you do just get the original albums, no extra tracks from later CD versions. So there’s no fifth track on Spiritual Unity and none of the extra material from the Goin’ Home CD version of Swing Low Sweet Spiritual. To prevent needless repetition you only get the second CD from Albert Smiles With Sunny, that’s the one with the extra tracks from Prophecy.
Albert Plays Wimoweh (?)
This month’s issue of the German magazine, Jazz Podium, features two recordings which may be previously unknown works by Albert Ayler. I came across these on youtube, with the following information (translation by google):
‘You can hear "Piece A", a solo performance piece for instrument, played by an alto saxophone. The recording comes from a wire-sound recorder, which the trumpeter Nathan Horwitz, music colleague Albert Ayler’s from his youth, created in the 1950s and gave out of his hands only decades later.
In the Jazz Podium 2/2020, Ben Young examines whether Albert Ayler is playing here.’
‘You can hear "Piece B", the interpretation of a piece known as "Wimoweh". A trumpet plays the lead, supported by a saxophone voice and drummer. The recording comes from a wire-sound recorder, which the trumpeter Nathan Horwitz, music colleague Albert Ayler’s from his youth, created in the 1950s and gave out of his hands only decades later.’
Here’s ‘Wimoweh’ (if only we knew if Albert Ayler was inspired by Karl Denver’s mad yodelling version):
A couple of times I’ve mentioned Richard Koloda trying to track down Patti Smith’s reviews of Albert Ayler albums. I received an email from Hunter Duke with this magazine cover attached:
Unfortunately I can’t find a copy of Hit Parader No. 157 (August 1977) online anywhere, but we’re getting closer.
Bits and pieces from around the globe
There’s an article about the Italian Ayler tribute band, Ayler’s Mood, at gionadellamusica.it. And on youtube a lecture (with music) about Albert Ayler by Nikolay Rubanov (in Russian). And from Japan, an Impulse ad.
And finally ...
Dirk Goedeking sent the above, and also the below. Not much to do with Albert, but whoever posted it added this note:
"New disney star wars will never see fan art this remarkable. Ladies and gentlemen: Ron Carter presents "Empire Jazz". Legend has it that #albertayler heard that storm trooper blowin that sax and just had to jump into the east river."
January 1 2020
Will see the 50th anniversary of the death of Albert Ayler in November. It’s also 20 years since I started this website - not sure which is the more sobering thought. Although the amount of Ayler-related ‘news’ seems to diminish as the months go by, there are still recordings and videos which have never been released, and there are also tantalising hints from time to time that there are other items buried in archives just waiting to be unearthed. And, of course, there’s always Richard Koloda’s biography of the Ayler brothers, which contains a lot of new information, just needing a sympathetic publisher. So, maybe we just need to have a little faith and follow the varied paths in the following three items from Dirk Goedeking:
Astral Traveling: The Ecstasy of Spiritual Jazz
An article from the Pitchfork site from 2015, but if I have mentioned it before, blowed if I can find it. Albert’s, or rather, Don’s ‘Our Prayer’ is included in the list.
Shakers ’N’ Bakers
The first CD from Jeff Lederer’s group, Shakers ’N’ Bakers includes a version of Ayler/Parks’ ‘Thank God For Women’. Again, I thought I had this, but all I can find is the second release Heart Love from 2018, which was an all Ayler/Parks affair. Anyway, here it is - both live (starting around 5:37):
And finally, this, which Dirk confessed himself baffled by:
“A simple gif led me to a confusing site dedicated to Albert Ayler. Click on the Spiritual-unity-gif to get to the main page. Maybe you can figure it out. Although I tried hard to understand, it leaves me absolutely clueless.”
Time to move on.
Pierre Crépon sent me a link to an article he’s written for the latest issue of Point of Departure about the Amougies festival of October 1969 that featured Don Cherry, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Archie Shepp and rock groups such as Pink Floyd, the Pretty Things, Colosseum and Ten Years After. Some of the acts were filmed and the films have survived in an archive near Paris. Pierre did tell me there’s no connection with Albert Ayler, but the whole event sounds “far out, man”, so it’s well worth a read. Fragments of the two documentary films, Amougies Music Power and Amougies European Music Revolution are available on youtube, mainly those featuring Frank Zappa (as MC), Captain Beefheart, Pink Floyd and other rock bands. Unfortunately nothing from the free jazz side of things. Further information and a full list of participants at the festival is available here.