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August 1 2019
The People’s Forum “Jazz & Self Determination” #5: Albert Ayler
On Saturday, 13th July, 2019 - Albert Ayler’s 83rd birthday - an event was held at The People’s Forum in New York in the ‘Jazz & Self Determination’ series, organised by Ras Moshe Burnett and featuring Steve Tintweiss and Joel Freedman.
Photos by Susan Yung.
The whole session is available on youtube. It runs for 2 hours 44 minutes, but there is some fascinating stuff in there about the early years of Free Jazz, and Joel Freedman’s account of his first meeting with Albert is classic. Around the 1:52:00 mark, Joel Freedman takes up his cello and the three men make some music. I have to thank Steve Tintweiss for letting me know about this.
Some sad news from Roy Morris - tenor saxophonist Joe Rigby has passed away. I couldn’t find any obituaries online but I did come across an interview on Matt Lavelle’s No Sound Left Behind site, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned before, and, of course, there’s more information about Joe Rigby’s music on the Homeboy Music site.
Albert’s first gig?
This popped up on the Ayler facebook page, courtesy of Daniel Richard. It’s a cutting from the Cleveland Call & Post of 14th April, 1945. At first I thought I must have it, but on checking the Concerts section, the earliest one I had listed was from December, 1945.
From Cleveland to Paris - the many sides of Bobby Few
‘Pierre Crépon marks 50 years since the jazz pianist’s arrival in France with a career-spanning playlist’ on The Wire site. There are fifteen tracks from Few’s varied career (including Ayler’s ‘Water Music’) and Pierre sent this additional information:
Booker Ervin “The Muse” From The In Between (Blue Note)
Albert Ayler “Water Music” From The Last Album (Impulse!)
Noah Howard “Viva Black” From Space Dimension (America/Eating Standing)
Frank Wright Quartet “Chapter Ten” From For Example: Workshop Freie Musik 1969-1978 (FMP/Destination: OUT)
Bobby Few “Few’s Blues” From More or Less Few (Center of the World)
Bobby Few “El Torro” From Solos & Duets (Center of the World)
Sunny Murray Quintet “Tree Tops” From Aigu-Grave (Marge)
Bobby Few “Continental Jazz Express” From Continental Jazz Express (Vogue)
Steve Lacy/Brion Gysin “Gay Paree Bop” From Songs (hat ART)
Byron Pope “Pope’s Blues” From Speed of Light Jazz (Speed of Light)
Bobby Few Trio “Few’s Boogie” From Few and Far Between (Adès)
Bobby Few “Like a Waterfall” From Continental Jazz Express (Boxholder)
Bobby Few & Avram Fefer Quartet “For Frank (Lowe)” [excerpt] From Sanctuary (CIMP)
Sonny Simmons & Bobby Few “Round Midnight” From True Wind (Hello World!)
Bobby Few “Let It Rain” From Let it Rain (Bobby Few)
1. Leroy Jenkins’ 1978 album, The Legend of Ai Glatson, which includes the track, ‘Albert Ayler (His Life Was Too Short)’.
4. Noise Enters Music - a lecture by Byrne Power. This looked like it might be interesting, but at one and a quarter hours (and with the People’s Forum one to finish) I thought I’d just skip to the Albert Ayler bit (48:00). Which turned out to be annoying. It’s that thing, that stupid cloth-eared acceptance of ‘received opinion’ which seeps through into everything these days. So, he takes ‘Masonic Inborn’ from Music Is The Healing Force ... as his text and then makes snide little comments about it. So we end up with Ayler being dismissed once again as difficult to listen to and a bit extreme, because he’s heard somewhere that Ayler is difficult to listen to and a bit extreme so he’ll use him to get a few laughs.
A postcard from Germany
Dirk Goedeking sent me a couple of items this month, a postcard of the Ole Brask photo of the Ayler group outside Slugs’, from German ebay. Classy but a bit confusing if you sent that from your holiday.
And an animated gif:
Which reminded me that I made an animated gif once. It was for another website (hence the product placement) which I abandoned when I thought I’d got an appointment in Samarra. But, despite it having nothing at all to do with Albert Ayler, I thought I’d resurrect it here since in this age of rampant demagoguery it seems oddly apposite.
July 1 2019
Recorded in Stockholm, October 25th, 1962
Is the obfuscatory title of a new vinyl release of the two volumes of The First Recordings (paceSomething Different!!!!!) from the Italian label, Alternative Fox. Perhaps it is a nod to the Hathut repackaging of the early European recordings of Albert Ayler, perhaps not. Further information here.
Dirk Goedeking let me know about the above, as well as few more Ayler oddities, such as:
A Shandar cassette version of Nuits De La Fondation Maeght, Volume 2:
The B Side of the ESP 45” single backed with Ornette Coleman’s ‘Sadness’. Complete with jukebox label (I wonder how many fights that caused):
And another of those weird mp3 compilations of the Complete Discography of Albert Ayler. The one mentioned before originated in Russia - this one’s from Brazil. Click the pictures for the full effect:
Goodbye New Grass
Sticking with matters discographical, I’m not sure whether this is old news, since it happened in 2008, but a recent article in TheNew York Times Magazine,“The Day the Music Burned” by Jody Rosen (published 11th June) has sparked interest elsewhere, including an item on the BBC’s Breakfast programme on 26th June. On 1st June, 2008, a fire at the Universal Studios in Hollywood destroyed an estimated half a million master tapes, including those belonging to the Impulse label - which is where Albert Ayler comes in. According to one of the articles picking up on the original NYT article, by Kevin Reed on the World Socialist Web Site:
‘Impulse! Records: The American jazz record company was founded in 1960 by ABC-Paramount Records and was also sold to MCA in the late 1970s and became part of Universal’s jazz portfolio in the 1990s. The majority of John Coltrane’s Impulse! masters were lost along with those of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and other jazz greats. Among the rock ’n’ roll Impulse! artist masters lost are Buddy Holly along with the masters of hits such as Bill Haley and His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock,” Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats’ “Rocket 88,” Bo Diddley’s “Bo Diddley/I’m A Man,” Etta James’ “At Last,” the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” and the Impressions’ “People Get Ready.”’
Another article on Digital Music News lists the artists whose work was destroyed. Of course, in Ayler’s case, there has been a special CD edition of Love Cry with three alternate takes, and the double CD, Live In Greenwich Village: The Complete Impulse Recordings, contained one previously unreleased track, but the ‘Late Impulse Ayler LPs’ - New Grass, Music Is The Healing Force of the Universe and The Last Album - have never been given the ‘special edition’ treatment, and now, never will.
“There have been signs for some time now that Ayler Records was winding down its activities. With the three albums reviewed here, it seems the label will be ending its 20-year run. Originally a Swedish imprint specializing in live American and Scandinavian releases in the classic, clunky free jazz tradition (early releases were also graced with the mesmerizing abstract expressionist artwork of Ãke Bjurhamn), it relocated to France and the very capable hands of Stéphane Berland in 2009, who reinvigorated the label with a newfound, largely (but hardly exclusively) Franco-centric eclecticism. Over the course of its existence, Ayler Records produced my first Peter Brötzmann album, my second Albert Ayler and Joelle Leandre, my first Arthur Doyle, Henry Grimes, Axel Dörner, Assif Tsahar, Charles Gayle, Arthur Rhames, Jimmy Lyons, Martin Küchen, and so many others. Maybe I came to this music relatively late, but Ayler Records was nevertheless my entrepôt. And, I imagine I am not the only listener with such fond, formative associations with the label.”
The only Albert Ayler CD actually released by Ayler Records was The Copenhagen Tapes and I remember back in the very early days of this site, Jan Ström, the founder of Ayler Records, was very helpful and informative about Albert’s time in Scandinavia.
It’s from page 24 of The Village Voice of 19th May, 1966. According to the ‘Sightings’ chapter of the Holy Ghost book, the personnel for the concert was: Albert Ayler (ts), Don Ayler (t), Michel Samson (vln), Lewis Worrell (b) and Ronald Shannon Jackson (d).
No, not ‘The Elizabethan Phrasing of the Late Albert Ayler’ this time, but the more minimally titled, ‘Ayler’, which is a new dance piece by Jennifer Owen, premiered in Kansas City by the Moving Arts company on 21st June. A review of the performance by Libby Hanssen on the KC Studio site has this description of the piece:
‘Jennifer Owen’s “Ayler” found inspiration in a piece by KC-based, nationally known saxophonist Matt Otto, a tribute to the late avant-garde saxophonist Albert Ayler. To Otto’s rich tone, Owen created a dialogue for dancers Kaleena Burks, Liang Fu, and Taryn Meija, phrases of wide swinging gestures, little shuffling kicks that fit her style so well, and impressive lifts by Fu.’
Alan Silva at 80
There’s a review on the Arteidolia site by Pierre Crépon of Alan Silva’s 80th birthday concert which took place in Paris in May. Pierre also has a couple of articles concerning Teruto Soejima’s recently published book, Free Jazz In Japan: A Personal History:‘Omnidirectional Projection: Teruto Soejima and Japanese Free Jazz’ in the June issue of Point of Departure, and on The Wire’s site Pierre’s choice of a playlist to accompany the book.
More from France
Alan Silva was one of the contributors to the two Daniel Caux radio programmes devoted to Albert Ayler which were originally broadcast in 1971. Alain Chauvat emailed to say that France Culture broadcast the two programmes again on 11th and 12th June this year. Both programmes are available on the France Culture site or can be downloaded here:
A rundown of the contents of each broadcast is also available on this site.
More from Japan
The youtube roundup is a bit sparse this month but I feel I should at least mention Alexis Dombrovszky’s rendition on tenor saxophone of the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1. And here’s a rather atmospheric version of ‘Ghosts’.
June 1 2019
Hat Hut correction
Last month I speculated that the next Ayler release from Hat Hut will be a repackaging of their last two Ayler CDs, Copenhagen Live 1964 (hatOLOGY 665) and European Radio Studio Recordings 1964 (hatOLOGY 678). Seems I was wrong and it is a rerelease of two of the 1964 Debut recordings, Spirits and Ghosts. Ernst Nebhuth sent me this item from The Wire.
If you followed the link above to The Wire you will have seen a nice photo of the Jimmy Giuffre Trio (plus two wives) from 1961. A session from their 1961 European tour will be another release from Hat Hut in their new „ezz-thetics“ series. There was the briefest of clips of the Giuffre Trio on BBC Four the other week in a programme devoted to the Jazz 625 jazz series of the 1960s - Jazz 625 Live: For One Night Only. Not that Giuffre got a mention and there was no information given about whether his whole performance had survived, for this is 2019 and we have to be protected from the facts (and Jeremy Corbyn of course). Instead we got a lot of current jazz and a bit with Charlie Watts, and an item with the presenters looking at LP covers. After a sequence devoted to Joe Harriott (with a two second clip of the great man) they did admit that, that was all that had survived of his performance on Jazz 625. Which brings me to Humphrey Lyttelton and the infamous Ayler concert at the London School of Economics in November 1966 for the BBC’s follow-up to Jazz 625, Jazz Goes To College. Sean Wilkie came across an interview with Humphrey Lyttelton (presenter of both series) in an issue of Jazz Review from May, 2001 (Issue 20, pp.24-27) in which he was asked about the Ayler concert. Sean kindly transcribed the relevant section, with an introductory note:
[Richard Cook is interviewing Humphrey Lyttelton and after talking about his first recordings, his move to Parlophone, his accidental hit with Bad Penny Blues and its ‘influence’ on The Beatles, they muse about the split between traditional jazz and popular music. Humph thinks that jazz is unique in western culture for appealing simultaneously to the brain as well as to the heart and feet. In response to Lester Young, he imagines, some will dance, some will go ‘ohhh, did you hear that?’ and some will be thinking about his linear improvisation: “All at the same time”. (pp.26-27)
The (immediately) following is all from p.27.]
[RC]: Having been witness to so much of it, is he optimistic that jazz will carry on?
HL: “I’m encouraged to be optimistic about it, because from observing it through the years … it’s like a worm. If you put a spade through a worm, the two halves continue in their own way. Jazz has a capacity to appear, at the sharp end, to appear to be heading for the rocks. If you take the avant-garde of the 60s, the freak-out end, it occurred to me at the time that the other quality of jazz, of everyone having their own voice – once you get to extended screaming at the upper end of the harmonic range, how can you tell one person screaming from another? And after you’ve screamed, where do you go from there? In the modern music now, one of the most dated elements today is the freak-out. I was listening to Tubby Hayes’ 100 Per Cent Proof album, a roaring big band thing – and for no apparent reason there’s a huge section where the big band is just freaking out, as if it was something you had to do then. When I was introducing BBC Jazz Club, if there was a band like, dare I say, Tony Oxley’s or John Stevens’, I’d sneak round and look at the music, and it was all things like electrical circuits and drawn symbols, but quite often you’d see a little section in the circuit which said “freak out”.
“I introduced Albert Ayler’s band at the LSE for a BBC recording. An odd occasion altogether, very strange, but it’s a pity the BBC didn’t show it. There was a thing about his band then which I sometimes thought was assumed … a sort of aggression and anger. The violin player, a Belgian classical violinist, he was the nearest to a complete caricature. He walked on stage swearing and he walked off stage swearing. It created an atmosphere where the producer, Terry Henebery, appeared to be going into the jaws of death if he asked them for anything. He wanted them to do two minutes fore and aft for the credits to run under, and when Albert finished his set – Ronnie Scott and Roland Kirk were there watching and their comments were interesting - Terry asked them to do another two minutes, and Albert went on objecting to it, and eventually he turned to the band, and said, OK, for two minutes we go crazy. And they did two minutes of madness. I thought then, well … emotion didn’t have much to do with it. But a lot of that stuff I’ve taken on board, or at least I don’t reject it out of hand. It’s difficult for someone with my background in music to get drawn into it, but I listen to a lot of contemporary things.”
[Then the discussion moves back to Humph’s own playing and music.]
Sean also added this comment:
“Difficult to say that it adds anything – indeed, a couple of the comments are better understood reading the book extract alongside them – but it revisits the event from another angle and adds the tantalising note that Roland Kirk was present at the recording and passed comment on Ayler’s music (although we’re not told what he said!).”
The ‘book extract’ Sean refers to is from Humphrey Lyttelton’s Take It From The Top, available on the L.S.E. concert page.
For some entertaining background to Jazz 625, I’d recommend this interview with the show’s producer, Terry Henebery, on the Transdiffusion site.
Terry Day’s Sweet Albert
This should really be kept for the ‘And finally ...’ slot but since Sean sent it to me along with the above, so I thought I’d just shove it here. More information on discogs.
From the ... well, moving on. Last September I mentioned that John Gray’s Fire Music: a bibliography of the new Jazz, 1959-1990, first published in 1991, was due to be updated. The new version, Creative Improvised Music: An International Bibliography of the Jazz Avant-Garde, 1959–Present, has now been published by the African Diaspora Press.
Dirk Goedeking let me know about an odd ESP cassette box set emanating from China which includes Spirits Rejoice. Released this year by Old Heaven Books, Dirk wonders if this is the first official Chinese release of an Albert Ayler album. The discogs site has the following explanation of how it came to pass:
‘In October 2018, the manager of ESP-Disk', Steve Holtje was invited by the 8th OCT-LOFT Jazz Festival to give a lecture titled 55 Years of Nurturing Avant-Garde and Outsider Music: ESP- DISK's Perpetual Revolution, in Shenzhen, China. During this event, Tu Fei, the curator of the festival, as well as the co-owner of Old Heaven Books, reached an agreement with Steve on further co-operations. For over half a century, ESP-DISK' has been publishing a massive amount of great records, among them are many free jazz masterpieces. And with great honor, the Old Heaven Books is authorized to produce and release this cassette boxset including 5 selected ESP DISK' classics, as a tribute to the label concept “The artists alone decide what you will hear on their ESP-Disk.”’
Dirk also came across this ‘mixtape’ from a while back. Such things bother my OCD, so I usually ignore them but this one has a few nice tracks and a faux-Blue Note cover - but is that Albert? I don’t think that’s Albert.
Just following up on that speculation about whether Dolphy ever played with Albert Ayler I indulged in back in February, I received the following email from Mike:
“In reference to Dolphy and Ayler playing together, the John Coltrane Reference has a passage on p 299 where Marzette Watts suggests that Dolphy and Ayler, together, sat in for Coltrane when he was ill. Likely, a Half Note performance in 1964. ... Certainly an exciting possibility!”
The 4th Annual Albert Ayler Award
From Steve Tintweiss:
“On May 30 th the 4th annual Albert Ayler Award n Jazz Performance, Improvization and Composition to outstanding graduating Master of Music students in Jazz at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College (City University of New York) was presented at commencement, along with other awards and scholarships. The recipients are drummer Peter Evans, trumpeter David DiTrapani, and trombonist Justus Heher. I established and sponsored this for a span of eighteen years since 2016.”
Steve Tintweiss with Professor Ed Smaldone of Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College City U of NY where the 4th Annual Albert Ayler Award was bestowed on three talented musicians graduating with MM Degrees in Jazz Studies.
Flying Saucers and other news from Cleveland
Richard Koloda posted a couple of things in the Ayler facebook group which I thought worth repeating here. The first gives an idea of what we can expect when he gets his biography of the Ayler brothers published:
“As many of you know, I have been editing my Albert Ayler biography. Warning: it is about 500 pages, and I believe you will find something new on every third page. It is a bit frustrating as I get no responses from copyright holders. For example, Downbeat magazine (as well as Jazz Times) never responded to my copyright inquiries I sent out in November last year. Nor did the local Plain Dealer,—and I can promise you some things I have obtained will floor you, such as school id photos of Al and Don, a photo of them at a playground back in 1949 (they are not identified—but their cousin id’d them), Albert’s army records, his marriage license, and social security application, as well as Don’s psychiatric report from when he was found not competent. Also you will find a paternity suit brought against Albert back in 1958. There is also the possibility of a complete run of the 1966 La Cave concerts (as well as something that some find fascinating, i.e., a series of UFO sightings in Cleveland that coincided with the La Cave dates). I even have traced down his golf scores when he was a teenager. Also there is another Ayler photograph from the school newspaper (again, he is not identified)—still hunting down his high school yearbook.”
And here’s a link to a Cleveland Scene article about those flying saucers, with this explanation from Richard:
“I believe this article will explain where Ayler claimed he saw the flying saucers. This was the same weekend as the La Cave concert. Ironically, the Mantua police chased the UFO down Route 5—into Pennsylvania. In 2012 I moved out to that area—and there are some older residents who claim that they actually saw the UFOs as well.”
The other biography
And sticking with the Ayler facebook group, Dean Westerfield posted this preliminary drawing from his graphic novel approach to the life of Albert Ayler:
Also on youtube this month:
A couple of guitar versions of Ayler tunes (in case you want to see what those crazy kids are getting up to these days). ‘Holy Family’ from the band, Grex (kicks in around 4:26) and this is ‘Truth Is Marching In’ from Garrett Gleason:
Then there are a couple of tracks from albums. ‘My Name Was Albert Ayler’ by Forlate from the album, There Shall Be Time No Longer. And then this, which deserves a little more than a passing mention since it’s a version ‘Love Flower’ but taken from an album celebrating the Count Basie LP, Afrique. So it’s a version of Count Basie’s version of Albert Ayler’s tune, ‘Love Flower’.
More information on Afrique (revisiting Afrique of Count Basie & Oliver Nelson) is available at Ouch! Records, including an article by Jacques Denis.