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September 1 2021
A Tale of Two Cities
It’s the 1966 European Tour again.
Dirk Goedeking spotted this on the facebook Ayler Group page. Christer Fredriksson asked the question, ‘Which is your favourite version of Truth Is Marching In?’ and hidden among the replies was the following from Jerry Bauer:
“The very best version I will ever be able to hear was when Albert with his group walked in at ‘Domicile’, Munich, 1967, by surprise and intoned the piece. To have heard Albert live, Beaver Harris and brother Don right behind him, was a huge adventure without comparison.”
He then added:
“When we first met I took Albert to my place and we were listening to Oum Kaltsoum and Arabic music all night long. The next evening we had a party at my late brother Khalil Sabir’s pad, who by chance a schoolfriend of Albert’s from Cleveland, Ohio, with the entire band. We listened to his record ‘Bells’ (Opaque Red Vinyl) but did not really know what to make of it. That’s why we all finally marched to the local Jazz club and just took over.”
Then I came in with:
“There's a gap in the 1966 European Tour when it has always been rumoured that the Ayler group recorded a TV programme in Munich. That's a session without an audience and not part of the Tour. This is the first time I've had any other indication that Ayler was in Munich (I think you mean 66 and not 67) and I wondered if you could expand on the story and maybe you can remember if the TV recording was mentioned.”
And Jerry replied:
“I doubt any TV-recording in Munich very much. I met Albert at the ‘Domicile’ - you`re right it was in 1966 - and the local house band was on: Don Menza (ts) and my late close friend Hartwig Bartz was the drummer. At the next break Albert took to him right away. Don [Menza] wanted to sell Albert a mouthpiece he himself had designed but Albert told him that he was quite satisfied with his own equipment. We got acquainted and stayed together at our pad listening to Oum Kaltsoum on my new tape recorder. Since the club owner Ernst Knauf who did not like Free Jazz had not been ready to give Albert and his group a sudden chance for a sudden appearance we had a private party the next night. That lead to the startling take-over. All dammed aggression let loose. I was sitting only about five meters away from Don and he nailed me with his sound right through the wall behind me. Albert played some sounds never heard on saxophone - never before and never after. My friend Hartwig was afraid that Beaver would wreck his drum set. The ghost was loose, some drunkards at the bar fell down, glasses broke, Don [M] was running back and forth all over the club. With all his mouthpieces he could never have produced a similar sound. After this musical invasion nobody had dared to get on stage to continue. And so I went to have a beer with Albert and Beaver to the only club still open in Schwabing. In our conversation Albert expressed a yearning for death that Beaver severely disagreed with. The next thing I heard of Albert was that he was drowned in the Hudson river. RIP, dear friend!”
And Dirk added a couple of grace notes to the proceedings. The wikipedia page for the Domicile club, and ‘a record by by the aforementioned Oum Kaltsoum from 1964’ and concluded with the following:
“Unbelievable, 55 years later someone just answers a simple question: What is your favourite version ...?”
The Munich TV recording session has been one of those constant mysteries in the Ayler saga. We’re no further forward really, but at least now we have a sighting of Albert Ayler’s band in Munich in November, 1966. There is a gap in the European Tour -
3rd November - Berlin. 4th, 5th, 6th - unknown. 7th Lorrach, Germany 8th Rotterdam 9th Helsinki 10th Stockholm 11th Copenhagen 12th - unknown 13th - Paris 14th Bordeaux 15th - London
Presumably the 12th was a day off, but the 4th to the 6th is the most likely spot for the trip to the SWF Television Studio in Munich (and the Domicile club). Zurich and Baden Baden have also been suggested as possible venues for other concerts, but no evidence has turned up. And there is nothing from the Munich TV recording - which Bill Folwell had a clear memory of, whereas he swore blind he’d never been to Bordeaux, despite the video evidence. Personally I think the TV recording took place and, now we have confirmation of the Ayler group in Munich, there’s no reason to question that it happened there. Why else would the band have been in Munich? But then, why are there no stories attached, no faint memories of seeing Ayler in a studio setting, no rubbish recordings from microphones held up to television speakers and captured on reel-to-reel tape machines. The non-existent and never-seen video from the London School of Economics has generated an immense amount of material, articles in newspapers and magazines, personal memories of members of that lucky, lucky audience. But from Munich, nothing. Which brings us to the second city.
How many times have we cursed the name of Billy Cotton Jr. in our nightly prayers? The BBC executive who has been accused of walking down his corridors of power, hearing the sublime sounds of the Albert Ayler Quintet in full flow at the London School of Economics on 15th November 1966, and demanding that the music be stopped and the tapes wiped, never to be allowed on the airwaves of the State Broadcaster. Turns out, owd Billy Jr. might be innocent.
Dave Jackson put me onto this, pointing me in the direction of the Matchless Recordings site, where there are two supplementary chapters to Eddie Prévost’s book, An Uncommon Music For The Common Man. Both are available as free pdf downloads and both are well worth reading, but it is the shorter of the two which concerns us here: ‘Unholy Ghosts - conspiracy theories and Albert Ayler’. According to this, there is a very good case to be made for the Ayler concert at the L.S.E. not being recorded at all. That, in fact, the plug was pulled mid-performance and there was, ultimately, nothing to be broadcast and not a lot to be wiped. Looking at the other accounts of the concert, one can believe such a hasty decision. But, although Humphrey Lyttelton obviously had no time for the music (oddly his greatest opprobium is reserved for the classically-trained Michel Samson) he does not mention the recording being stopped and repeats the well-loved tale:
“The men upstairs at the BBC took one look at the programme which we recorded at the L.S.E. and decided that it was not suitable for transmission. A year or two later, in an act of criminal negligence, almost all the irreplaceable stock of BBC 2 jazz recordings—perhaps the most comprehensive collection of ‘in action’ jazz recordings in the world—were wiped off in a routine exercise to conserve video-tape.”
I remember in the early days of this site, writing to the BBC to ask them to nip down and have a look in their basement to see if they had the Ayler L.S.E. videotape, and I received a nice reply saying, ‘sorry, no, nothing’. I wonder how many other people have done that over the years and now we all have to adjust our thinking, no longer ‘wiped’ or’ lost’ but now just, ‘stupidly abandoned’.
When I root in my memory of Jazz 625 and Jazz Goes To College programmes, they all seem rather staid and conventional. I think the only time it ever got raucous was when Alex Welsh’s drummer, Lennie Hastings, shouted “Ooyah ooyah” or some such at the end of his drum solos. So, to be confronted by the Albert Ayler Quintet - at the fag end of their European tour, which hadn’t gone that smoothly, compounded by the trouble getting into the country and their consequently late arrival at the gig - and that glorious noise that they’d probably never encountered before, it seems quite feasible that the engineers and the man in charge of the recording would have thought “No, I don’t think so,” and would have pulled the plug.
Read the Eddie Prévost ‘chapter’ and make your own mind up (and also be prepared to have your opinion of Evan Parker altered).
There’s a trailer for Tom Surgal’s documentary about Free Jazz, which was premiered in September 2018, on youtube which ends with: “In Theaters Sept 2021”. So, there’s something going on there - we shall wait and see what. In the meantime, there’s a recent review of the film by Steve Provizer on the arts fuse and here’s the trailer with the briefest of clips of Albert (I think from Berlin, 1966).
Dance Balerina Dance
I know, I shouldn’t encourage these people, but the picture (and the spelling) caught my eye. On closer examination it turned out to be a teapot, but not one to grace the extensive crockery collection of Hanley Museum. But check this out for a tracklist:
1. All The Things You Are by Tommy Dorsey 2. Anji by Davy Graham 3. Cat Walk by Mal Waldron 4. Dance Balerina Dance by Vaughn Monroe 5. Little Town Flirt by Del Shannon 6. La donne e mobile by Enrico Caruso 7. Sweet Sue, Just You by The Mills Brothers 8. Take The A Train by Anita O'Day 9. Truth Is Marching In by Albert Ayler 10. When It's Sleepy Time [presumably ‘Down South’] by Ethel Waters
‘List of famous bandleaders, with photos, bios, and other information when available. Who are the top bandleaders in the world? This includes the most prominent bandleaders, living and dead, both in America and abroad. This list of notable bandleaders is ordered by their level of prominence, and can be sorted for various bits of information, such as where these historic bandleaders were born and what their nationality is. The people on this list are from different countries, but what they all have in common is that they're all renowned bandleaders. These people, like James Brown and Ray Charles include images when available. From reputable, prominent, and well known bandleaders to the lesser known bandleaders of today, these are some of the best professionals in the bandleader field. If you want to answer the questions, "Who are the most famous bandleaders ever?" and "What are the names of famous bandleaders?" then you're in the right place.’
Albert Ayler makes the list as Famous Bandleader No. 49, not far behind Brian Jones as Famous Bandleader No. 47 and Chico Marx as Famous Bandleader No. 46.
Arthur Edward Booth, bass player with several notable bands, including the Sun Ra Arkestra and Tony Williams’ Lifetime, has died aged 73. A man of several names, one of which was in these pages for one performance with Albert Ayler, a performance which was filmed by the famous documentarians, D. A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock, at the Albright-Knox Auditorium in Buffalo, N.Y. on 9th March, 1968. It was filmed for a television documentary, ‘Who’s Afraid of the Avant-Garde?’ which was broadcast on 21st April, 1968, but, unfortunately, the Ayler footage did not make the cut. There’s a brief obituary of ‘Junie’ Booth on the Pitchfork site, and further information on wikipedia. He was born in Buffalo, which perhaps explains why he was part of the Ayler group on that one occasion, and there may be more information at the Buffalo News, which, at the moment, is blocked to European browsers (?). I have to thank Kees Hazevoet for letting me know about Mr. Booth’s passing.
Istanbul not Constantinople
Coincidentally it was Kees Hazevoet who kicked off a search for information about Ayler’s Buffalo gig back in February, 2012. A couple of years later, November, 2014, there was a follow-up item about the extensive film archives of D. A. Pennebaker and a possible search for the missing Ayler footage. And the rest is silence. There are items which we know exist, such as the Fondation Maeght documentary, but which we are not allowed to see. And then there are items like the TV programmes from Buffalo and the London School of Economics, which are, effectively, lost. But that does not stop the speculation and I’m sure there are still people out there who can’t believe that the State Broadcaster with ruthless efficiency taped over Ayler’s only performance in Britain with an episode of Terry and June where presumably Terry did something wrong and June found out about it and hilarity ensued. Which brings us to this:
Early last month Johann Haidenbauer emailed with a link to the Radio Jazz Copenhagen site which includes a large amount of material (345 hours worth in fact), among which are some programmes about the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, including extracts from the one in November, 1966. Skip down the page and you’ll find ‘Historien om Copenhagen Jazz Festival #1, Ole Matthiessen’, which is described thus (translated by google):
“The story of Copenhagen Jazz Festival 1: 2 Ole Matthiessen talks about the start of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, which took place one autumn weekend with the participation of a large number of American stars. From the years 1964 - 68 there are recordings with Pee Wee Russell, Miles Davis, George Russell, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen Sextet, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Lennie Tristano, Stan Getz with Gary Burton, Willie the Lion Smith, Albert Ayler, Thelonious Monk, Sarah Vaughan, George Benson, Gary Burton Group, Horace Silver, Muddy Waters, Dizzy Gillespie Reunion Band, Max Roach and Elvin Jones Trio.”
Around the 1:31:00 mark, to 1:41:45, you’ll find an extract of an Albert Ayler live performance. One assumes from the Copenhagen Festival, recorded at the Tivolis Koncertsal, Copenhagen, Denmark on 11th November, 1966 and broadcast on Danish radio. Except it isn’t. At least it is not part of the ‘Copenhagen Concert’ which is on this site. At which point you start to think, ‘Is this something new? Perhaps a lost tune from Copenhagen?’ At which point I thought I’d better check the Stockholm concert of the day before, and there was the tune, ‘Omega Is The Alpha’, and a similar running time. To my ears (rather, ear) the two tracks sounded the same, but I don’t trust my ear, so I consulted an expert, Dikko Faust in New York. He couldn’t be certain they were the same, but did provide this rundown of the two ‘Omegas’:
0'00 A theme 0'52 B theme & coda 2'13 A theme fast 2'31 AA+MS 2'41 AA 3'36 DA 5'00 MS 6'57 BH 8'50 all 9'04 BF (announced at the beginning as Lewis Worrell!) 9'59 all 10'41 end
0'00 A theme 0'52 B theme & coda 2'11 A theme fast 2'26 AA+MS 2'40 AA 3'34 DA 4'57 MS 6'54 BH 8'02 all 9'00 BF 9'55 all 10'46 end”
Which I thought was pretty conclusive in itself, given the closeness of the timings, but Dikko wanted a second opinion and so we passed it on to Sean Wilkie in Wales. He replied with this:
“Wow! What an amazing performance of Omega Is The Alpha. This may be the gold standard for me going forward.
Patrick, you’re correct. It certainly is the same performance – on the Radio Programme - as the Stockholm version I have on the ‘old’ Hat hut Stockholm / Berlin (single) CD.
There’s some sonic reproduction difference which a better bluffer than I would describe as higher ends and lower frequencies. I compared them by listening through a few seconds at a time before repeating those seconds on the other version. I’d compare it to finding 32 specific matches on two very similar fingerprints.
The hardest bit was Beaver Harris’ spot where the difference between the sound of the two ‘versions’ (Dolby off vs Bias Boost??) made me momentarily doubt the force of the previous 25 matches on the two ‘prints’. But I managed to match Beaver as well, once my ears caught on. (Apologies for all these forensic police work metaphors).
There’s also the double-tap? microphone bumping? at 0.51 on the CD version (ca. 1.31.50 on the radio show) and a couple of other anomalous sounds that match up.
PS Perhaps the radio broadcast better emphasises Samson, so higher frequencies up (Dolby off)? What a solo by him, what a beautiful handover to Harris …”
Right, so I’m happy, but Johann still isn’t. How did an extract from the Stockholm concert end up in a programme about the Copenhagen Festival? Now I’ve seen The Bridge so I’m not surprised at this cross-pollination of jazz recordings in Scandinavia, especially since a programme about the Stockholm concert was shown on Danish TV on two occasions, 9th January and 6th February, 1967.
Ultimately we are in the hands of the Archivists, and sometimes mistakes are made and what is recorded in Stockholm is labelled Copenhagen. To which Johann replies, (I paraphrase), “But what evidence is there that what has been released as the Stockholm concert, was actually recorded in Stockholm.” We are reduced to quoting Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
Back on safer ground. Hathut have released their version of New York Eye And Ear Control (New York Eye And Ear Control, Revisited). The Walking Woman is relegated to a cameo and this release is firmly branded as an Albert Ayler album. Chronologically it was the second of the trilogy of great collective improvisations of Free Jazz, preceded by Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz (recorded December, 1960) and followed by John Coltrane’s Ascension (recorded June, 1965), New York Eye And Ear Control was recorded in the home of Paul Haines on 17th July, 1964. Click the picture below for further details of the latest release.
Michael Snow’s New York Eye And Ear Control is still available on youtube. And there’s a new biography of John Tchicai by Margriet Naber, John Tchicai: A Chaos With Some Kind Of Order, which is previewed in The Wire.
Last December there was a piece about Yusuf Mumin and the Cleveland avant-garde, linked to an article (and playlist) on the Wire site. In his essay Yusuf Mumin mentioned the following:
‘Before I heard Albert Ayler play in person, his dad Edward Ayler, a longtime friend of my family, had brought my mother a copy of Albert’s album Bells. Albert was not around town much, he was in New York or Europe. I in fact only saw him once, in a Cleveland concert he held at WHK Auditorium in February 1967.
One afternoon, around 2009, during a conversation with Albert’s father at his home, I brought up the subject of working with some of the ideals that Albert was exploring. He wanted to know if I was playing outside, so I gave him a copy of recordings I had made in memory of Albert in the 1980s - the only time I’ve recorded with another artist in mind. I wanted Mr Ayler to know that his son was appreciated. Sketches Of The Invisible will contain this music.
A great Poet by the name of Kahlil Gibran once stated that “you could see liquor but what’s hidden is its spirit”. So it is with music. You could hear music but what’s hidden is the spirit. It cannot be seen, but you can react to it. The same applies to the spirit animating the human body. There is dark music, and then there’s dark music with a light at the end of the tunnel. Albert’s life ended as darkness upon the face of the deep. The East River, where his body was found in 1970, became the express purpose in creating the composition “Albert’s Cry In The Wilderness” on the upcoming release.’
Pierre Crépon let me know that the recordings referred to above are now available on bandcamp.
Pierre has also reviewed the album for the current issue of The New York City Jazz Record, which is available for free download here. Pierre’s review is on page 20.
Stories / The link between music, illness and therapy through albums, books and comics. From “Music is the Healing Force of the Universe”, the album by Albert Ayler, to the beneficial virus of “Mumbo Jumbo”, the visionary novel by Ishmael Reed. Watch out for “Abbott”, a graphic novel whose protagonist, an investigative journalist, soothes the pain of her partner's death with the art of John Coltrane.’
“This summer, Ars Nova Workshop, The Woodlands, and Spirits Up! will host a series of free outdoor yoga and mindfulness sessions paired with live music. We will mold mindfulness, meditation, and movement into each of these sessions while paying homage to many of the foundational forces in Black Liberation Music, such as Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler, and John Coltrane.”
And there’s an article by Peter Crimmins, ‘Meditation for liberation in a West Philly cemetery’, at WHYY.
To counter all this healthy mindfulness, Dirk also sent this:
Steve Tintweiss writes...
“All About Jazz” podcast included two tracks from “MarksTown” The Purple Why 1968 at St Mark”s Church Biafra Benefit concert. It features a Mark Whitecage tenor sax solo on Ramona I Love You, and rare trumpet work by James DuBoise. Bassist Steve Tintweiss sings How Sweet? with Judy Stuart backup vocals and Laurence Cook on drums. IDM003 on new INKY DoT MEDIA label also includes a set from Town Hall a month later with baritone saxophonist Trevor Koehler and singer Amy Sheffer added to the ensemble.
Meanwhile, Richard Koloda asks “if anyone has a clue as to the age of Mary Parks?”
Kees Hazevoet sent a link to a site which then links to My Name Is Albert Ayler on youtube.
And Dirk Goedeking sent a link to an illustrated review by Chris Fischer of the Holy Ghost box set, which is rather odd. Here’s a sample:
With the Olympics in full swing we are reminded yet again of how exceptionally turgid and downright depressing is the national anthem of ‘Great’ Britain. I think that all sportspeople fortunate enough to win a gold medal should be allowed to nominate La Marseillaise as their anthem of choice to be played while they stand on the podium. There’s a celebration of La Marseillaise here, which has Albert Ayler’s version at No. 2. And here’s a particularly rousing version: