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My Name Is Albert Ayler


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May  1 2020


1. Henry Grimes (3/11/1935 - 15/4/2020)


(Photo by Peter Gannushkin, 2011)


Very sad to report the death, from COVID-19, of Henry Grimes, at the age of 84. I think everyone knows the story of Henry Grimes’ interrupted career. A glance at his remarkable discography, recording with a whole host of jazz legends, alongside most of the avant-garde of the 60s, reveals the gap. Henry Grimes played bass on six Ayler LPs (Spirits, Swing Low Sweet Spiritual, Spirits Rejoice, Sonny’s Time Now, In Greenwich Village and The Village Concerts) and following that session at the Village Vanguard on 18th December, 1966, which produced tracks for the last two, after nearly ten years of consistent recording, there’s nothing for 37 years, until February, 2003. Henry Grimes had moved to the West Coast and had disappeared. For a long while he was missing, presumed dead, until Marshall Marrotte found him. Then, with the help of Margaret Davis, and William Parker (who gave him a bass) Henry Grimes’ musical career began again. The same story is repeated in all the obituaries (and, if memory serves, there’s my contemporaneous account down among the Archives) but that’s a tale of a void, it should not obscure what lies either side of it, the music. There’s an obituary on WBGO, which includes a clip from Jazz on a Summer’s Day, where there’s a shot of Henry playing bass with Thelonious Monk. And on the Wire site, there’s an appreciation of Henry Grimes by William Parker, and be sure to read the comment from Henry’s wife, Margaret Davis Grimes.


2. Giuseppi Logan (22/5/1935 - 17/4/2020)


It would be churlish to keep to the rules and not mention another victim of COVID-19, whose career in jazz merely glided alongside that of the Ayler brothers but did not coincide in a recording context. Like Henry Grimes, Giuseppi Logan was also 84 and another victim of COVID-19. His career was not as wide-ranging as that of Henry Grimes, but there was the coincidence of a lengthy disappearance from the music scene, and then a late rediscovery. Pierre Crépon has written an obituary for The Wire, and there’s also a piece by Matt Lavelle, who did a lot to secure Logan’s comeback. There are also obituaries at the New York Post and WBGO, and I took the above photo from the Giuseppi Logan page at Alchetron. As for the tenuous links to Albert Ayler: Giuseppi Logan’s debut LP on ESP was among the first batch of free jazz releases on that label. In fact there’s the double review in Down Beat, of 15th July, 1965, where Logan’s debut is reviewed alongside Byron Allen’s and Spiritual Unity, first by Kenny Dorham (one star for the Allen, no stars for the other two) and Bill Mathieu (no ratings given). In the same edition there’s also a review of a concert featuring the three groups which took place at the Town Hall, New York on 1st May, 1965 - the concert when Bells was recorded.


3. Lee Konitz (13/10/1927 - 15/4/2020)

Another victim of the virus, Lee Konitz was 92 when he died. His career is well-documented and there are many obituaries online, so I’ll just mention John Fordham’s in The Guardian. As far as I know there are no links between Lee Konitz and Albert Ayler, so this is more of a personal mention. Back in the black and white days (see below) when information about jazz was hard to come by, there was a TV programme on the BBC called Jazz 625 - most episodes criminally wiped - one of which featured Lee Konitz. It was recorded in 1966, so I would have been 15 when I saw it, and I can still conjure up a picture from it in my mind’s eye. Konitz was literally there at The Birth of the Cool, and also, it should always be remembered, part of the Lennie Tristano group which recorded the first two pieces of Free Jazz (‘Intuition’ and ‘Digression’) in 1949, no less, when the newest thing was bebop. Perhaps a musical cul-de-sac at the time, but, even so ...


The Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program

When I was looking around for Lee Konitz items I came across this: The Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program. I’m not suggesting it’s new - far from it - just that I found it by accident and maybe other people don’t know about it. Transcripts in pdf format and mp3 clips of interviews with numerous jazz musicians. Great if you’ve got some time on your hands.


Don Ayler on Alto

Kees Hazevoet kindly sent me a translation of a review in Jazzwereld 22, February, 1969 of a Don Ayler concert at Slugs’ in New York, which is probably the one mentioned in the Holy Ghost book as happening on 21st September, 1968. It’s interesting since Don is playing alto saxophone (confirming the story that he started out on that instrument before switching to trumpet), and Albert makes an appearance on bagpipes. Here’s the translation from Kees, and the original page is available here.

‘Jazz in New York

By Frens van der Mei

Don Ayler on alto

Don Ayler played on a Saturday afternoon [in Slugs]. That’s when people play, who club owners don’t dare to hire for a whole week. Unfortunately the organization was completely lost. Half the group didn’t show up, so I couldn’t hear the music that I had been wanting to hear for quite some time. I couldn’t verify the many stories about a fantastic new pianist and bass-clarinetist. Rashied’s brother, Mohammed Ali, was the drummer and he is just as fierce as his brother, just as energetic, in the category of exciting drummers, very super fast with the hands. Don played his piercing trumpet and I must say that it didn’t have much form. He also plays alto now and sounds like a derivative of his brother.
     To make good on things, Albert Ayler was also present and as we hear so little of him, it is always a special occasion, organized or not. Albert also plays bagpipes now and the sounds he makes on it are hard to describe. Don: “It doesn’t make sense to try and keep a group together… Whenever there’s a chance to play, we’ll just play… and see what happens”. Example of a fatalistic attitude, quite common in these circles. It wasn’t total chaos, but “creative disorder” in which moments of great music alternated with utter nonsense…, but those special moments!’

Since the Holy Ghost book cited the Village Voice of 19th September as confirmation - presumably an advert - I had a look at the Village Voice archives on google but there’s nothing for 1968. However, I did come across the following advert for Don Ayler’s Town Hall concert of 11th January, 1969, at which the two revelatory tracks on Disc 7 of Holy Ghost were recorded.


Notes from the Groves of Academe

A couple of things:

‘Listening at the Edges: Aural Experience and Affect in a New York Jazz Scene’ is a 2014 Ph.D. thesis by Matthew Somoroff, which, I must confess, I haven’t read, but I mention it here because in the third part (p. 275) of Chapter 5 (‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Listening: Negotiating Sociality in Moments of Listening’) which is an interview with musician, Patrick Brennan, there’s an in-depth discussion about the first track on Spiritual Unity, ‘Ghosts: First Variation’ (p. 284). I’ve said before, but it’s a good line so I’ll say it again, my attitude to this kind of dissection of the intricacies of music is akin to Donald Sutherland’s attitude to tanks in Kelly’s Heroes, but for those who delight in such things, this will fascinate.

The other nosegay I grabbed while clumping my way through the aforesaid groves, brings us back to the grim present. Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, has been tracking the virus, and has adjusted its seminar programme accordingly:

‘The seminars, which are taught by faculty across campus from a wide range of departments, are the second half of the Honors College’s required first-year sequence. The college’s senior lecturers were instrumental both in developing the interdisciplinary framework for the seminars and in creating courses themselves, with original topics including “Gangs and Organized Crime,” “Race and Sports in the United States,” and “Doing Well and Doing Good?”

Honors Senior Lecturer Beth Fowler, Ph.D., teaches two sections of “Pop Goes the World: Global Freedom Movements and U.S. Popular Culture.”

“The students are incredibly engaged and prepared in each class and are able to discuss the arguments intelligently,” she said. “But we also have a great time listening to songs from different time frames and countries; watching video clips; and looking at art, discussing various interpretations, and linking those interpretations to political and social shifts.”

Fowler offers some of her favorite moments so far: students tracking the “whitening” and “Britishization” of the Beatles through a series of performances, finding calls to political action in Motown singles, and describing the live album Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village as “the soundtrack to a horror movie” and “a heart attack in the woods.” One student even created a Spotify playlist of all the songs played in class.’

Exit, pursued by a bear.


Three from youtube

One of the more intriguing bands in the Tributes and Versions sections is Aylers Angels. Their 1997 album, Frözen Hämmer vs. Äncient Äxe, shared with Fake Hand, is now available on youtube and their live version of ‘Ghosts’ comes in around the 19 minute mark.

The William Parker Bass Quartet (Parker, Alan Silva, Sirone and Henry Grimes) featuring Charles Gayle - Requiem.

And here’s this month’s ‘Ghosts’ played by Kenichi Manabe:


Why not a red double-decker bus?

There’s a new 3 CD set entitled Underground London – The Art Music and Free Jazz that Inspired a Cultural Revolution which contains one track by Albert Ayler, ‘Moanin’’ from The First Recordings Vol. 2. It is a rather eclectic selection and is available everywhere, but I took the following track list and blurb from Cherry Red Records.

‘In the mid-1960s, the rigid and colourless British way of life was irrevocably transformed by the emergence of the underground movement, a loose collective of young radicals who introduced new social, sexual and aesthetic perspectives. Operating out of the heart of London, their various activities, from the newspaper the International Times, to the psychedelic club UFO, promoted alternative lifestyles and values and sparked a cultural revolution.



1. W.R.U – Ornette Coleman Quartet
2. DOG – Lawrence Ferlinghetti
3. OUT OF THIS WORLD – John Coltrane Quartet
4. LEFT ALONE – Eric Dolphy
7. AMERICA – Allen Ginsberg
8. ROCKET NUMBER NINE TAKE OFF FOR THE PLANET VENUS – Sun Ra and his Myth-Science Arkestra
9. BELLINI – Annie Ross with the Tony Kinsey Quintet
10. CAN YOU TRAP SHADOWS LIKE THIS? – Christopher Logue with the Tony Kinsey Quintet
11. AUTUMN LEAVES – Jimmy Smith Trio


1. 3 JESUS MARIA – Jimmy Giuffre
2. RAGA JOG – Ravi Shankar
3. PICTURES – Joe Harriott Quintet
4. MORNING – Yusef Lateef
7. PITHECANTHROPUS ERECTUS – Charlie Mingus Jazz Workshop
8. THE OCEAN (MAIN THEME) – Daphne Oram & Desmond Briscoe
9. MOANIN’ – Albert Ayler


1. LOVE FOR SALE – Cecil Taylor Trio
2. 3/4 AD – Davy Graham & Alexis Korner
3. INDETERMINACY (EXCERPT) – John Cage & David Tudor
4. ÉTUDE CONCRETE – Karlheinz Stockhausen
6. SERPENT’S TOOTH – Victor Feldman
7. A ROSE FOR BOOKER – The New Dynamic Chico Hamilton Quintet
8. MISTER WALKER (RENIE) – Wes Montgomery
9. THE BRIDGE – Sonny Rollins
10. LONELY WOMAN – Modern Jazz Quartet
11. THE INVISIBLE – John Coltrane & Don Cherry


Actually, I could nitpick and point out that nobody in London in the mid-1960s was being inspired by Albert Ayler’s version of ‘Moanin’’ since Volume Two of The First Recordings was not available till much, much later. Besides which, I take exception to the phrase, “the rigid and colourless British way of life” - I used to like the world when it was all black and white.


And finally ...

Since we seem to have moved into cheerier climes, here’s a selection of Ayler-related t-shirts which Dirk Goedeking sent me:

A is for Albert02
Band with Tyler03
Healing Force 202

Jazzy A Is For Albert Ayler [with insert]

A is  Detail02
Walking WomanT02

What’s New January - April 2020 is now in the Archives.


This site went online in June 2000. All the previous ‘What’s New’ pages are available below:



If you have any information about Albert Ayler, or any questions or corrections, then please email me, Patrick Regan.


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