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December 1 2020
Albert Ayler’s Death Certificate
One of the most interesting aspects of Richard Koloda’s biography of the Ayler brothers (now in the final editing stage) is the amount of personal details, relating to the brothers’ lives in Cleveland and beyond, inside and outside the world of music. Among the documents Richard has recovered is a copy of Albert’s death certificate, which he has kindly given me permission to add to the site, on the 50th anniversary of Albert’s untimely death.
My own musical choices have been going down some peculiar rabbit-holes lately, so I thought I should reaffirm my avant-garde credentials with this youtube selection from The Song System:
“In recognition of 50 years since the passing of the iconic saxophonist and experimental music pioneer Albert Ayler. Clarinet played into undampened piano, recorded onto tape in September 2020 by 281 Years (Zoom H1n - Sony TCM 400).”
Pierre Crépon let me know about a number of items online concerning the Black Unity Trio and the Cleveland avant-garde in the late 60s. The first, on the Wire site, is an essay by saxophonist Yusuf Mumin accompanied by a playlist which features an unreleased track recorded in memory of Albert Ayler. Here’s the relevant extract:
‘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.’
The playlist is intriguing too. Apart from the Black Unity Trio, there’s also a track Yusuf Mumin recorded with Norman Howard (of ‘Witches and Devils’ fame), Horace Tapscott pops up again, and the list begins with the Modern Jazz Quartet’s ‘Odds Against Tomorrow’ (bloody great film with a riveting performance from Robert Ryan, sorry couldn’t resist mentioning that).
Next up is an essay on the Chimurenga site by saxophonist Hasan Abdur-Razzaq who witnessed the Black Unity Trio in Cleveland at the start of his own playing career and gives some more background on the group.
“A great 1980 Coda interview with Abdul Wadud by David Lee will be republished in the December issue of Point of Departure A new interview with Hasan Shahid will be available for replay on Mike Johnston's WCMU radio show.”
And don’t forget, The Black Unity Trio’s album, Al-Fatihah, originally recorded in December 1968, has recently been reissued.
Well, not yet, but soon and if it’s Christmas it must be time for another mash-up of carols and Ayler tunes.
Mars Williams ‘An Ayler Xmas’ reaches its fourth volume, subtitled ‘Chicago vs N.Y.C.’ It’s a double CD featuring live concerts from Chicago and New York, recorded in December last year. Here’s the track list etc. from the bandcamp site:
DISC 1: CHICAGO (tracks 1-4)
1. THE HANUKAH-XMAS MARCH OF TRUTH FOR 12 DAYS OF JINGLING BELLS WITH SPIRITS IN CHICAGO (24:45)
2. THE HEAVENLY HOME BASHING OF THE BELLS (8:24)
3. NOEL OMEGA-CHANGE HAS COME FOR THE 3 KINGS WHO LIT THE TINY CANDLES IN CHICAGO (14:54)
4. DID YOU HEAR THEY FOUND LIGHT IN DARKNESS LOOKING FOR CHESTNUTS (10:33)
MARS WILLIAMS - SAX, TOY INSTRUMENTS JOSH BERMAN - CORNET JIM BAKER - PIANO, VIOLA, ARP SYNTH KENT KESSLER - BASS BRIAN SANDSTROM - BASS, GUITAR, TRUMPET STEVE HUNT - DRUMS
GUESTS: PETER MAUNU - VIOLIN KATINKA KLEIJN - CELLO (TRACK 1, 3) KEEFE JACKSON - BARI SAX (TRACK 4)
Recorded & Mixed by Dave Zuchowski. Live at Hungry Brain (12/15/19)
DISC 2: NYC (tracks 5-6)
5. THE HANUKAH-XMAS MARCH OF TRUTH FOR 12 DAYS OF JINGLING BELLS WITH SPIRITS IN NYC (27:53)
6. NOEL OMEGA-CHANGE HAS COME FOR THE 3 KINGS WHO LIT THE TINY CANDLES IN NYC (20:24)
MARS WILLIAMS - SAX, TOY INSTRUMENTS STEVE SWELL - TROMBONE HILLIARD GREENE - BASS CHRIS CORSANO - DRUMS NELS CLINE - GUITAR FRED LONBERG-HOLM - CELLO
Recorded & Mixed by Marc Uselli Live at DiMenna Center (12/21/19)
There’s a full review on SomethingElse!, and a brief one on WBGO, which ends with the especially apt comment that ‘Ayler’s “Change Has Come” is a theme that has some cultural resonance this holiday season.’ And here it is:
I received the following from Anthony Osborne, which I’ve added to the ‘Appreciations of Ayler’ page, but I thought, rather than just adding a link, I’d repeat it here:
“I first came to Ayler's music when I was 17 or 18, around the dawn of the 1980s - I was coming from an obsession with The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and No Wave and looking for something that moved me in a similar way. Free jazz, fire music, seemed to offer exactly that and my first encounter with Albert was hearing In Greenwich Village. It was love at first listen - I was a fledgling saxophonist at the time and Albert's playing, his tone, everything about him, was like discovering the Holy Grail. I loved the noise, the tunes, the energy ... it all appealed to me.
I was soon busy tracking down everything I could find by this remarkable artist and am happy to say that initial thrill has never faded. From the magnificent trio of Spiritual Unity to the later pop-infected albums, it all sounds like the music of the spheres to me.
I'm now in my fifties, still playing saxophone and still finding new beauty and new inspiration in the music. It never grows stale.”
“I am a free music saxophonist, improviser and composer. If I have to choose labels, I would place my work within free jazz, experimental, drone and noise - although I prefer to just think of it as music.”)
As well as the 50th anniversary of Albert Ayler’s death, 2020 is also the 50th anniversary of his final recorded concerts which took place at the Fondation Maeght in July, 1970. Photographer Gérard Rouy recalls those concerts in this 10 minute ‘video’. Pierre Crépon added this note:
“It's a series of pictures from the Maeght concerts by Gérard Rouy with his commentary in French on top (he indicates that the prints were done by Jacques Bisceglia, whom he first met at those concerts and drove home to Paris). I believe a number of them are new, including one of Albert playing bagpipes. This was done for a website called Muzzix.”
Is a new album by Suhan Khramtcevich Orlov Kim (that’s Konstantin Suhan - trumpet, Sergei Khramtcevich - baritone saxophone, Pavel Orlov - bass and Andrey Kim - drums) which includes versions of ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Our Prayer’. Recorded in September this year, it’s available to buy on bandcamp and to listen to on youtube.
Last roundup of the year from youtube
Git along little dogies. Back in June 2019 I mentioned a duo which was recreating the Count Basie album, Afrique, which contained the Albert Ayler tune, ‘Dancing Flower’. Now on youtube there’s a video of a live performance by Lionel Martin and Sangoma Everett (with dancer Abdou N’Gom) of ‘Revisiting Afrique’. There’s a version of ‘Angels’ by another duo, Skerebotte Fatta (formerly of Infant Joy), and here’s bassist Thomas Milovac playing ‘Omega is the Alpha’:
And finally . . .
Usually, at Christmas, Dirk Goedeking sends me a selection of links to Albert Ayler-themed gifts which he has found in the further reaches of the world wide web. However, this year, he writes:
“Christmas presents like mini skirts, bathroom mats or cutting boards do not move me in these pandemic times. So this year the shopping bag is simply filled with face masks. I like "New Grass" with the chin best.”
Right, that’s it for 2020. Thanks to everybody who contributed to the site during the year. Happy Holidays and hopefully I’ll be back in 2021.
November 1 2020
November 25 1970
On this date, 50 years ago, the body of Albert Ayler was recovered from New York’s East River.
Hat Hut Releases
I have to thank Dirk Goedeking for alerting me to the fact that Hat Hut had updated their site. It seems that they have taken over from ESP as the main record company repackaging and reissuing Albert Ayler albums, and, it should be said, with the full approval of the Ayler Estate. As I mentioned in July, there are two releases in the ‘Revisited’ strand, ‘Albert Ayler Quartet with Don Cherry: European Recordings Autumn 1964 Revisited’ and ‘Albert Ayler: 1965 Spirits Rejoice & Bells Revisited’. The first is a repackaging of The Copenhagen Tapes and The Hilversum Session, issued by Hat Hut as ‘Albert Ayler Quartet: Copenhagen Live 1964’ (hatOLOGY 665) and ‘Albert Ayler Quartet: European Radio Studio Recordings 1964’ (hatOLOGY 678).
The second is a first for Hat Hut, a new twinning of the two classic recordings of the Ayler groups featuring Charles Tyler on alto sax: Bells and Spirits Rejoice.
Of even more interest are a couple of items pictured on the Hat Hut site in the Upcoming section.
The 1966 European Tour recordings collection reissuing ‘Stockholm, Berlin 1966’ (hatOLOGY 717) and ‘Lörrach/Paris 1966’ (hatOLOGY 573 - originally HatMUSICS 3500, released in 1982) had been mooted before, as a vinyl collection. Although it will be nice to have them all together, it’s a pity that the concerts from Copenhagen and Helsinki (which are known to exist - in fact Copenhagen is available here - and the videos of the Berlin concert and the brief extract from the Bordeaux event, couldn’t be included. The Fondation Maeght release is intriguing - why ‘Part 1’? The original Shandar albums will fit onto one CD (and were released as such on the Water label in 2002). Perhaps ‘Part 2’ will be the earlier Quartet concert released on ESP as Live On The Riviera. Maybe this will be the complete concert, which ran for over two hours, or, far more likely, this is just a faulty mock-up of the cover and ‘Part 2’ has been omitted. In the blurb listing future releases, it does say “Albert Ayler Quintet, Maeght Fondation 27th July 1970, Parts 1 & 2”, so I think that just means the Shandar albums.
Stan Douglas and Hors-Champs
‘Hors-Champs’, the 1992 video installation by Stan Douglas featuring a performance of Ayler’s ‘Spirits Rejoice’ by a quartet of musicians (Douglas Ewart (ts), George Lewis (tb), Kent Carter (b) and Oliver Johnson (d)) has cropped up from time to time in these pages, usually when it has been exhibited somewhere. Now there’s an interview with Stan Douglas conducted for the Volkswagen ART4ALL Online Edition #7 which features an explanation of how ‘Hors-Champs’ came about and an extensive clip from the video, starting around the 13:10 mark and running till 20:38.
I just came across this and considering the opening announcement above I thought I should mention it, even though it’s been cancelled. I’ve gone with the google translation, from the ilFRUILI.it site:
“Due to the current pandemic situation caused by the Coronavirus, the cultural association Gruppo Area di Ricerca Dobialab of Staranzano (GO) was forced to cancel the fourth appointment of the first part of the XIX edition of the DobiArtEventi multimedia festival (DAE). After having investigated the places linked to water in the province of Gorizia with local and international artists, with conferences and projections, Dobialab had to postpone the event scheduled for Saturday 10 October at the Vrhnika Cultural Center in Slovenia to next year. DobiArtEventi establishes new links and collaborations every year also with international realities and hopes once again to be able to guarantee its public a cross-border appointment in complete safety in the spring of 2021, The fourth appointment of DAE should have taken place this Saturday at Moja Ljubljanica, at Tržaška cesta 32. The event should have started at 18 with the cross-border musical duo formed by the Slovenian percussionist Zlatko KaučŤičŤ and the Friulian saxophonist Daniele D'Agaro. The two artists are among the most historical representatives of our area of free jazz and improvised music, as well as companions of countless musical raids. The duo should therefore have exhibited inside the museum dedicated to the Ljubljanica, a river that was one of the ancient communication routes of Central Europe, paying homage to saxophonist Albert Ayler on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his death. The Slovenian musical duo would then perform with Tomaž Grom on double bass and Marko JeničŤ on violin. The two musicians would have proposed an acoustic duo with roots in contemporary and improvised music. Already collaborators in various creative jazz and experimental music ensembles, the two artists are part of the freshest and most original scene in the Slovenian capital.”
A Time And A Place
I thought I’d mention this new album by Dustin Laurenzi since it has a track called ‘Albert’, which is dedicated to the man, and it also has a nice cover reminiscent of those which used to adorn science fiction books (and maybe still do).
Right off the subject of Albert Ayler now, but I came across this article on KCET by Andy Beta, “From Bandstand to Social Justice: How Jazz Remains ‘America’s Classical Music’”. It’s a potted history of jazz with some interesting facts (‘In 2015, it was reported that the genre was “tied with classical music as the least-consumed music in the U.S., after children’s music”’ - quelle surprise), a great photo of Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie, and Albert Ayler does get a mention, although he doesn’t make the playlist. However the thing that did catch my eye was the following:
“Out in Los Angeles, Horace Tapscott founded the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and Union of God’s Musicians and Artists Ascension (UGMAA) in 1961. Just like and unlike Sun Ra’s Arkestra, Tapscott’s Ark embodied multitudes, uplifted a community rather than illuminated individuals, providing a vision of a possible future.”
Now, forgive my ignorance, but I only really know Horace Tapscott from the brilliant Sonny Criss album, Sonny’s Dream, so I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but there was a link to another article, ‘Passing the Magic: Horace Tapscott and His Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra’ by Mike Sonksen, which is fascinating. OK back to Albert and some more versions of ‘Ghosts’.
Some more versions of ‘Ghosts’ on youtube
There’s a version from a 2009 album called Entropia by Giovanni Maier and Guido Mazzon, which I didn’t have listed on the Versions page. And two guitar versions, one from Richard Bonnet, the first in his KitchenSong series, and one from take-bow (who should be advised that google, in trying to help, replaces the hyphen with an ‘a’ so you get a lot of ‘take a bow’s). For a change there’s also a version of ‘Bells’ from Giovanni Maier, this time with Daniele Cavallanti on a 2017 album called Our Standards (another one I missed), which also contains a version of Don Ayler’s ‘Prophet John’. And speaking of Don Ayler, here’s his tune ‘Our Prayer’ performed by the Deep Schrott bass saxophone quartet.
And finally . . .
This is me . . .
October 1 2020
New York Eye And Ear Control
Thought I’d start with this, since I don’t think it’ll be around for long. Michael Snow’s experimental film, New York Eye And Ear Control is currently available on youtube.
Gary Peacock (12/5/1935 - 4/9/2020)
I mentioned this on 8th September just after I’d heard the sad news but there are more obituaries online now so here are some. The New York Times and The Washington Post - the latter including the following anecdote to belie Gary Peacock’s usual image as an affable Buddhist:
‘On dozens of recordings, from classic jazz to the far out, Mr. Peacock took pride in being able to fit in and, as he told the Arts Fuse website in 2017, “to be in a particular place that other people can share, enjoy, and feel something.” One musician he refused to join onstage, however, was Elvis Costello, a New Wave rocker of the 1970s who became a genre-crossing singer-songwriter. Invited to perform with Konitz at New York’s Iridium jazz club in 2003, Costello rehearsed his songs with members of Konitz’s band, except for Mr. Peacock. After the two spoke, according to Jazz Times, Costello gathered his music and left the club, which had to explain his absence to irate fans. Mr. Peacock, ever the jazz purist, was heard to say, “I don’t play backup for no rock star.”’
On wbgo.org there’s a 24 minute interview with Gary Peacock and pianist Marc Copland from 2014, discussing their latest recording, Now This. If you don’t have a spare half-hour, I would urge you to check out the five minutes which begins around the 12:40 mark with a memory of Lester Young before segueing into a really nice Albert Ayler story.
And on France Musique there’s an ‘Hommage ŕ Gary Peacock’featuring tracks from Gary Peacock’s extensive career.
The Breath Courses Through Us
After watching the short above, and you’ve got yourself a kia-ora or an orange maid or a tub from the usherette, it’s time for the main feature:The Breath Courses Through Usis Alan Roth’s 2013 documentary about the New York Art Quartet. The film is available on vimeo (thanks to Dirk Goedeking for letting me know) and centres around the band’s 35- year reunion. Of course, the group assembled for New York Eye And Ear Control featured two members of the New York Art Quartet, Roswell Rudd and John Tchicai. More information about the film is available at its website.
Is the second instalment of Pierre Crépon’s feature in the Wire devoted to jazz musicians taking control of the recording and distribution of their work. The article/playlist is introduced by Mutawaf A Shaheed (Albert Ayler’s bassist on the La Cave sessions) who writes:
“Many of these artists concluded these people were never going to stop doing what they do best, that is never stop using the system or racism that they feel has made them successful for centuries. Some artists tried creating their own venues, moving to Europe, setting up their own communities, to have it destroyed by those who knew that if these Blacks were allowed to be left to themselves, they would reap the benefits of their work to the exclusion of the vampires among the oppressor class. Here for the world to see are a few artists who, to some degree, owned their music. Pressure and rejection both serve a purpose, positive and negative.”
Dirk Goedeking found it on Pinterest where it purports to be an ebay listing for a copy of Something Different!!!!!. Like Ozymandias, nothing remains of it on ebay, so, what is it?
My contribution, also from ebay, is this strange indicator of the weirdness of collectors, and, perhaps, an indicator of the collectability of Albert Ayler - although, given that it went for Ł4.20, maybe we’re not in the realm of the Beatles yet. It is a faulty pressing of Spiritual Unity:
“RARE US EARLY 70s MISPRESSING IN LOVELY SHAPE!! As you can see from the third photo side 1 has a strange mark which looks as if a strand of paper was caught in the press when the disc was made - it has caused The Wizard to be mostly unplayable but is still an interesting mispress - it is definitely not a scratch as the mark sticks out and is not indented!! Sadly there is no sleeve with this one - this was how it came to me as part of a large collection!! HARD TO FIND LIKE THIS!! DON'T MISS OUT!!”
Sadly, I did.
Dirk also sent the following examples of how to display your Albert Ayler collections.
Two from youtube
Erich Hochberg Deep Tones for Peace 2020
Two meditations/improvisations I’ll call 'Ghostly Transitions' as they are based on two of my favorite tunes, ‘Transitions’ by John Coltrane and ‘Ghosts’ by Albert Ayler. Dedicated to my longtime collaborator and friend, saxophonist Mark Colby. Namaste.
And this tribute to drummer, Steve Belger.
I think we’ll leave it there.
September 8 2020
Gary Peacock (12/5/1935 - 4/9/2020)
The final member of the iconic triumvirate which recorded Spiritual Unity has died.
There are obituaries at Pitchfork and NPR, and I will add more in the regular update next month. Of course, it was not only the Ayler Trio that included Gary Peacock, he was also a member of the Ayler/Cherry Quartet, and appeared on New York Eye And Ear Control and Spirits Rejoice. The photo above was taken by Guy Kopelowicz at the recording session for the latter, at which Gary Peacock played alongside fellow bassist Henry Grimes, whom we also lost in April this year.
September 1 2020
Hopefully, anyway. Dirk Goedeking came across the following exchange on twitter:
Beware the Jazz
Also on Kasper Collin’s twitter feed there was this:
Which I may have seen before, but it makes a neat link to an article from Il Manifesto about the 1962 Helsinki Free Jazz Festival, which featured Archie Shepp and Bill Dixon among others. Back in the early days of this site I remember trying to track down a rumour that Albert Ayler had played at that festival and had then toured Russia. The rumour then got more convoluted and the festival was supposed to have been organised by the C.I.A., and Free Jazz had been weaponised. The article, ‘When the USSR became free’, was prompted by the publication of a book about the event, Free Jazz Communism by Sezgin Boynik and Taneli Viitahuhta, published by Rab-Rab Press.
There were two events, one, the ‘8th World Festival of Youth and Students’, sponsored by the Soviet Union, the other, ‘Young America Presents’, organised by the C.I.A. among other spoiler tactics, which featured Jimmy Giuffre (say it ain’t so). Albert Ayler appeared at neither. And, I suppose the real mystery is, why not?
Milford Graves is unwell, but this article in the New York Times describes how he is fighting a diagnosis of amyloid cardiomyopathy. It also mentions an upcoming exhibition devoted to Milford Graves to be held at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art, which will run from 26th September to 24th January 2021 (if we all make it that far).
An Argentinian trio, whose new album, Enero bajo el árbol, features two tracks dedicated to Albert Ayler, ‘La adoracion del sol #1’ and #2. The album is available on bandcamp and youtube and here’s an interview with the band, who look like this:
Is the rather appropriate title of a new album by bassist Matteo Mosolo, which contains a version of ‘Ghosts’ (available on youtube). It’s reviewed on the Rockit site and you can buy it from bandcamp.
And the Italian trio, Ayler’s Mood, are playing at the Parcocittŕ Arena in Foggia on 3rd September as part of the Prospettive Sonore festival
More from youtube
Dan Phillips plays ‘Spirits’:
And the Matt Smiley Quartet give us two Ayler medleys:
And finally . . .
Coming full circle (I don’t just chuck these things together) Dirk Goedeking sent some photos of where people put their posters of Kasper Collin’s My Name Is Albert Ayler (???) - click on ‘em to make ‘em big: