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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.