By the way, the Elemental Music Records page on Bandcamp has Ayler’s last recorded version of ‘Ghosts’, from the first Fondation Maeght concert. Although the release of the complete ORTF recordings might put the earlier albums of selections from the two F.M. concerts in the shade, I hope that they will remain in the catalogue. I can still remember the elation many of us felt on hearing the Shandar LPs following on from the ‘disappointment’ we felt with the last Impulse albums. And whoever it was in Italy who selected the tracks from the first concert for the Blu-Jazz CD (given away free with a magazine), and which was then released properly by ESP as Live On The Riviera, should be congratulated for putting ‘Ghosts’ as the final track. It may not have been what happened, but sometimes reality needs a little nudge to raise the hairs on the back of the neck and give a CD a truly triumphant ending.
Before the Fondation Maeght there was Slugs, venue for Ayler’s May 1966 sessions, Live At Slug’s Saloon (the apostrophe comes and goes, as does the ‘Live’) and the iconic photograph taken outside by Ole Brask. I make no apology for repeating it here.
I mention it because Dirk Goedeking came across a couple of Slugs’ items. A photo of the interior:
Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg emailed to say that he picked up a copy of the French version of Spiritual Unity on the Explosive label, only to discover that it has the original version of ‘Spirits’, which, so the story goes, only occurred on the first ESP pressings of the LP. All the other copies were presumed to have the second, longer version, until the later CD Special Editions appeared, first from Japan, then ESP, when both versions were included. The full story’s on the Spiritual Unity page, and here’s a picture of Explosive 538107.
The New York Times
Last month I included a review of an Ayler concert at the Village Theater from The New York Times. I also found a brief review of Ayler’s appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival and a review of Love Cry by Martin Williams. There’s also a piece about the funeral of John Coltrane, and another obituary of Albert Ayler (I’d only seen the article by Archie Shepp before). Finally, there are a couple of articles by Nat Hentoff about the ‘state of jazz’. The first, from Christmas Day, 1966, is entitled ‘The New Jazz—Black, Angry, And Hard To Understand’ (Part 1 pp. 10-11, Part 2 pp.36-39), the second, from 26 November, 1967 entitled ‘Will Rock ‘n’ Roll Take Over From Jazz?’ Both recall the question posed by the Bonzo Dog DooDah Band.
Pierre Crépon has a new playlist on the Wire, this time devoted to French pianist/composer, François Tusques. This is Pierre’s introduction:
‘Quite a few names from free jazz’s 1960s heydays could be bandied around to discuss François Tusques: Don Cherry, Sunny Murray, Alan Silva, Clifford Thornton... There are then the milestones, such as his 1965 Free Jazz album, one of the first recordings connecting Europe with the jazz avant garde. But, more importantly, the uniqueness of Tusques’ music has never faltered, with some of his most recent releases on Parisian label Improvising Beings ranking among his best (see tracks 1, 4, 6 in this playlist).’
Dirk Goedeking sent me a link to “Archie Shepp's ‘Calling to the forest’ single with Marion Rampal from 2021. A catchy tune with beautiful polyphone singing at the end.” Actually there is an Ayler connection here, Marion Rampal is also a member of The Alppalachians, who did a version of Ayler’s ‘Holy Family’ and (my site so I get two) also this version of ‘Freight Train’ - shades of Nancy Whiskey.
And my other ‘unconnected with Ayler so what’s it doing here’ selection (‘slightly off-piste’ is much neater) is this interview with Mike Westbrook on the Jazzwise site.
And finally ...
I was hoping that Allen Blairman’s passing just days after the release of Revelations, with all the attendant publicity, would have generated more comment outside his adopted home of Germany, but it does not seem to be the case. But I did find this.
May 3 2022
Allen Blairman (13/8/1940 - 29/4/2022)
Very sad to report the death of Allen Blairman, the drummer with the Albert Ayler group which performed at the Fondation Maeght in July, 1970. He was much more, of course, but given what I was writing for this site only a couple of days ago, his passing has added poignancy. Born in Pittsburgh, Allen Blairman relocated to Heidelberg, Germany in 1970, which is where he died last Friday at the age of 81. There’s an obituary by Frank Schindelbeck on the German JazzPages site.
May 1 2022
Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings - First Reviews
20th August, 1949: ‘To Far East’ (Beatrice Hargrove was Myrtle Ayler’s cousin.)
And here’s those two little scamps at Little Daisy Carr’s birthday party, from the Cleveland Call and Post of 27th September, 1947. Albert is on the back row, second from the right. Don is on the front row, second from the left. Click the picture for the pdf.
Richard Koloda’s long-awaited book about the Ayler brothers is due to be published in the autumn.
Talking of upcoming books, Jeff Schwartz has another one in the pipeline, also due out in the autumn.
If it weren’t for Jeff Schwartz’s online book about Albert Ayler, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Back in the day it was the only thing that came up about Ayler on the entire world wide web. It gave me the idea for this site and was the basis for much of the information on here in the early days. So now he has a book about Free Jazz, which will be published by Suny Press on 1st October. Here’s the blurb:
‘In the late 1950s, free jazz broke all the rules, liberating musicians both to create completely spontaneous and unplanned performances and to develop unique personal musical systems. This genre emerged alongside the radical changes of the 1960s, particularly the Civil Rights, Black Arts, and Black Power movements. Free Jazz is a new and accessible introduction to this exciting, controversial, and often misunderstood music, drawing on extensive research, close listening, and the author’s experience as a performer. More than a catalog of artists and albums, the book explores the conceptual areas they opened: freedom, spirituality, energy, experimentalism, and self-determination. These are discussed in relation to both the political and artistic currents of the times and to specific musical techniques, explained in language clear to ordinary readers but also useful for musicians.’
And, I’m not sure whether I should mention it, but Jeff added this on his facebook post about the book:
“A more reasonably priced paperback is scheduled for June 2023.”
I’ve always questioned whether I was the right person to do this site since my musical knowledge is dire and the closest I get to analysing Albert’s music is saying I like that little laugh he does at the end of ‘Change Has Come’. But, luckily for you, there are people like Sean Wilkie around who can do the important stuff. Prompted by a title change of ‘Saints’ to ‘Prophecy’ on the Hat Hut re-release of Spirits (aka Witches And Devils) in the Revisited series (Albert Ayler Quartets 1964 Spirits To Ghosts Revisited ezz-thetics 1101) Sean has written a piece explaining why he thinks the change shouldn’t have come. It’s on the Spirits Covers page.
Kasper Collin and other stuff
This from Kasper Collin’s twitter feed (via Dirk Goedeking) in reply to Lavelle Porter asking if My Name Is Albert Ayler will be released:
"Oh, thanks. So glad to hear. Ayler doc is a constant headache. Everytime I’ve said it’s soon to be rereleased I’ve meant it. A great distributor wants to do it this year. It was made in the short but peculiar age of DVCam. Much restoring/upscaling work to make it distributable."
I’ve always thought that the lack of a DVD release of Kasper Collin’s film was down to some legal problem regarding Mary Maria Parks; which was why the Fondation Maeght would not release their Ayler documentary (or so Bernard Stollman told me). This is the first time I’ve heard of technical problems regarding the film. I do wonder, with the release of Revelations with the full approval of the Ayler Estate, whether things have changed recently. Mayhap Maria Maria has joined Albert in the Great Majority. More research needed.
Dirk also sent me the beginning of a review of the Ayler Octet’s performance at the Village Theater from The New York Times of 27th February, 1967:
“The Albert Ayler Octet indicated at a concert at the Village Theater on Saturday night that the jazz avant-garde really does have a song in its heart. However, the song turned out to be rather monotonous—a singsong country jig that served as an ensemble theme on several occasions.”
‘Ben Stiller, who directed most of the first season, said that the playlist “embodies the weird tension under the surface that always exists with the characters.”
“It's genre-busting music, which I hope suits the feeling our show aspires to,” Ben Stiller tells Apple Music of this playlist celebrating the Season 1 finale of his Apple Original series Severance streaming on Apple TV+. The playlist’s title - and its collection of skronky retro and avant-garde jazz selections from artists like Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, and Albert Ayler - is a reference to the soundtrack for a deeply unsettling office dance party in the seventh episode of the series, which is about data-entry employees at a mysterious company with a chip implanted in their brains that prohibits them from remembering their non-work lives. “We wanted it to reflect the weirdness of the corporate culture,” Stiller says of both the scene and the spirit of the songs found here. “The feel to me of the show is always ‘generic retro.’ It was all very evocative to me of a dance party from the some future ’50s retro-exotica world.”
That skittish mood is exemplified by the playlist’s opening track, “Shakey Jake” by Joe McPhee. “It embodies the weird tension under the surface that always exists with the characters,” Stiller says. “And the saxophone is insane - I don’t know how he gets those sounds. It’s a 13-minute-plus track and the build is amazing. It’s pushing the bounds of the jazz form, almost to an anarchic level.”
The Ayler track is ‘Bells’ from Love Cry.
Back on safe ground. Here’s a drunken man dancing to Bells, and the aforementioned Joe McPhee with Universal Indians in a concert from Bonn from 24th April. No ‘Ghosts’ but here’s ‘Truth Is Marching In’ (would it were so).
And, finally, I thought I shouldn’t let this one go, although its relevance to Albert Ayler is tangential, to say the least. It’s a TV programme from 1965 called ‘Jazz: The Experimenters’ featuring the Charles Mingus Workshop and the Cecil Taylor Unit. It’s also got introductions/explanations from the jazz journalist, Martin Williams and the novelist, Ralph Ellison (whose Invisible Man is stuck on a pile behind me).
The Ayler connection is just that there’s this item in the Ayler Sessionography which just sits there and intrigues. A concert with Cecil Taylor at New York’s Philharmonic Hall, from New Year’s Eve, 1963, featuring the titles, ‘In Fields’, ‘Octagonal Skirt’ and ‘Fancy Pants’. I removed it from the Unreleased Recordings page long ago, but left it in the Sessionography, with this note:
‘Mike Hames adds the following note about this recording: “I have been unable to find anyone who can confirm the existence of this tape, though it is conventional to list it.” The Holy Ghost book follows the convention.’
When I heard Cecil Taylor give two of those titles (or maybe it’s just one ‘Octagonal Skirt And Fancy Pants’) I thought maybe this TV show had been the cause of the confusion, but, now with my trusty subscription to The New York Times I checked for the concert - no review (although the NYT search engine is a bit rubbish) but I did find this advert.
So, none the wiser really, which neatly sums up my response to Cecil Taylor’s explanation of his own music. I just like that bit at the end of ‘Change Has Come’ where Albert laughs.