Tom Surgal’s documentary about Free Jazz, Fire Music, received its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on 29th September. It’s a bit soon for the reviews, but I’ve found this one by Steve Kopian, and there’s also this video of the Q&A which followed the screening. However, the film’s website and facebook page now seem to have been updated, so further information on the film’s progress will be available there.
Still on the subject of films. I suddenly remembered that there was a jazz documentary based around the photos of Val Wilmer, called Jazz Is Our Religion, so I had a look round in case it was available online - it isn’t - but I did come across this fascinating glimpse of Ted Joans in this extract from a 1964 film Jazz & Poetry by Louis van Gasteren, recorded in Amsterdam in 1964, reciting his poem, ‘Jazz Is My Religion’.
Those Pesky Russians
I rely on Dirk Goedeking to find me the strangest reissues of Ayler albums and this month he sent me these Russian CDs he found on the Japanese Yahoo Auction site. The double CDs each contain several complete Ayler albums in mp3 format.
Information on these ‘items’ is thin on the ground, a quick google just brought up a Joy Division site since that modern beat combo has been given the same treatment, and this explanation on the Tapeheads forum. Dirk supplied the following translations of some of the Russian on the covers:
‘The Russian text on the green one is “Collection Albums; Part 1-2 or 3-4; at home collection”, on the red one “Complete Artistic Anthology; Part 1-2 or 3-4; at home collection” and on the backsides “Albums included in CD*; total time of playback: ** hours ** minutes”. They seem to be released by the labels “at home collection” and “yukis”. Probably illegal but interesting. The kyrillic letters give them a special flair.’
I think ‘probably’ is unnecessary in this case, but interesting, in a way, since they do contain the music from the Holy Ghost box set, which is now in some kind of legal limbo. The Japanese Yahoo auction site also contains a couple of bootleg DVDs of Kasper Collin’s My Name Is Albert Ayler, taken from the Swedish TV version. If you have already downloaded a copy of the film and want to preserve it in a nice case with a proper cover, there are two to choose from - the ‘Blue Mark Music Produced By Zooey Records’ version or the ‘Music Is The Healing Force...’ one.
That was neat. There’s an interesting article about the political nature of Free Jazz on the SocialistWorker.org site. ‘Envisioning A Free World Through Free Music’ by Dylan DelGiudice “provides an introduction to the visionary world of ‘free jazz’” and makes the distinction between the political and spiritual branches of the music, which a lot of critics tend to miss these days.
It’s worth mentioning also that Marc Ribot has a new album out. Not one of his Ayler tributes, but more in the vein of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra.
“With his new album Songs of Resistance 1948 - 2018, Ribot - one of the world’s most accomplished and acclaimed guitar players - set out to assemble a set of songs that spoke to this political moment with appropriate ambition, passion, and fury. The eleven songs on the record are drawn from the World War II anti-Fascist Italian partisans, the U.S. civil rights movement, and Mexican protest ballads, as well as original compositions, and feature a wide range of guest vocalists, including Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Meshell Ndegeocello, Justin Vivian Bond, Fay Victor, Sam Amidon, and Ohene Cornelius.”
There’s an interview with Marc Ribot at the Daily Beast, under the headline, ‘Marc Ribot Leads a Musical Army Protesting Against Trump’.
Politics also figures in the interview with Noel McGhie, conducted by Pierre Crépon and Jochen Behring, in the current edition of Point of Departure. Again, no Ayler content, but well worth reading for the information it reveals about the French Free Jazz scene of the 1970s. Noel McGhie was born in Jamaica and moved to England when he was 18 to continue his trade as an electrician, but bureaucracy (one hopes) got in the way, and he took up the drums and joined a band. He went on to play with Steve Lacy, Archie Shepp and many others. This is just the first part of the interview, with more to come in the November issue.
Also, I’d recommend Bill Shoemaker's 'Page One' column on Point of Departure about John Coltrane’s 'new' album, Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album.
And talking of Coltrane
I came across this photo of John Coltrane’s funeral on the facebook Ayler group page:
I don’t remember seeing this wide shot before, although I do have this close-up of the band which, from the angle, would seem to have been taken by the same photographer.
And the facebook Ayler group also turned up this photo by Naoki Mukouda:
There’s an interview with Marte Röling about her distinctive Fontana album cover designs (this is one of those oft recurring bits of Aylerian ephemera) on the mellowtown site. Pierre Crépon let me know about it, but also warned me that the reason why the Fontana release of Ayler’s Spirits (aka Witches & Devils) never occurred is neither discussed nor explained.
Spiritual Unity makes it into Kris Needs’ Top 5 NYC Albums Of All Time and Augustus Payne’s (owner of Cleveland’s A Separate Reality record shop) ‘three albums you should check out’. And In Greenwich Village makes it into Treble’s Impulse! Records: 25 Essential Albums (as well it should).
Here’s an LP from Bengt ‘Frippe’ Nordstrom (architect of Albert Ayler’s First Recordings) - Now’s The “Frippe” Time. And here’s Albert meeting Elise on a guitar. And, finally, is it too early for this?
I thought there’d be more information around this month about Tom Surgal’s documentary about Free Jazz, Fire Music, which received its world premiere in New York on 29th September, but all I caould find were a couple of reviews, one from Rolling Stone and the other from the Hollywood Reporter.
I feel I may as well get rid of this now - Ayler’s ‘Ghosts’ has made it into ‘NMW’s Ten Super Creepy Songs For Halloween 2018’ on the Overmental site.
And there’s a version of ‘Ghosts’ on Chris Pasin’s new CD with his Ornettiquette group (which also features Karl Berger on vibes and piano). There’s a piece about the CD on this Jazz News site, which includes the following explanation of the genesis of the band:
“This is the fourth release as a leader for New York-native Pasin, a longtime practitioner of jazz from straight-ahead to avant-garde. “I became acquainted with the music of Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and Albert Ayler as a teenager, and played along with their records,” Pasin recalls. “A little later I transcribed ‘Ghosts,’ and started playing it with people, but it was not until recently that the idea of a band playing the music inspired by these heroes occurred to me, thus engendering Ornettiquette.”
There’s an extensive interview with the painter Benjamin Pritchard, conducted by Joseph Masheck on The Brooklyn Rail site, part of which concerns Pritachard’s painting, Albert Ayler:
The main focus of the interview is to do with the influence of the Chilean writer, Roberto Bolaño, on Pritchard’s work, but it includes this about the Ayler painting:
Joseph Masheck (Rail): I’m glad you have your large painting Albert Ayler out, because I’ve seen it several times, and now it looks definitive. Early on it seemed unfinished to both of us. Later, I sometimes had to be careful with my comments, knowing your way of suddenly totally overhauling an image, because the painting was growing on me. You were just saying that you could exemplify Bolaño’s influence on you with this painting?
Benjamin Pritchard: I think so; by a kind of labyrinthine structure that holds together even as it doesn’t; and it’s got a kind of superficial overtone of kitsch or pulp detective novels.
Rail: And the way the colors recur, like elements that are in themselves sufficient within the—one might have thought—chaotic compositional field, yet come back again here or there.
Pritchard: Oh yes; definitely recurrence is something that I understand, and that also concerns Bolaño.
Rail: Does it also relate to Ayler’s music?
Pritchard: Well he wasn’t such a specific inspiration; but I started it on the anniversary of his death, and his work was being played non-stop on the radio. I think I was alone for about three days. So I was just listening to the music, really loud; and that was the impetus for the energy and general approach to the painting. I’m not necessarily a fan of his, but there was a time when it was very important to me. I’m not even a huge free jazz fan, but while this painting was happening I was completely obsessed with Ayler’s music.
Ayler in a box
Or, rather, this month’s edition of Dirk Goedeking’s Discographical Corner, which begins with the original vinyl version of Lorrach/Paris, which came in what a recent seller on German ebay described as a pizza box:
Then we travel to Japan and enter the strange world of DeAgostini, who have put a vinyl copy of In Greenwich Village in a box along with a magazine. No 42 of their ‘Jazz LP Record Collection’:
Very similar, in fact, to No. 27 in DeAgostini’s series, ‘Jazz at 33 1/3 rpm’:
The new series is discussed on the Australian stereonet site, and although Ayler’s not mentioned, to quote Dirk, ‘You can get an impression of a complete package (no pizza but Dolphy’s lunch).’
And I’ve finally found something on the weird discographical front - a 1971 French LP which contains a track entitled ‘Albert Ayler in Memoriam’.
19. Laurent Petitgirard - Pop Instrumental De France (Vadim) - Who knew the harpsichord could be so funky? Evidently Laurent Petitgirard did: described in the liner notes as "French jazz-funk-pop-baroque style (also known as progressive rock)," the composer put together this collection of forgotten classics in the late 1960s, but it wasn't properly released until this year. Thank heavens, too, because there are few records that transcend genre boundaries (much less polyhyphenate descriptions) as gorgeously as this one; from the throttle of "Albert Ayler In Memoriam" to the cascading string arrangements of "Soho," there are countless indelible melodies to be found amidst these ten selections, producing not only the sharp and indefatigable desire to produce some unholy baroque rap records, but an even stronger determination to ferret out the rest of Petitgirard's discography. For crate-diggers, kitch-seekers and genuine music aficionados alike.
LAURENTPETITGIRARD Pop Instrumental de France (Vadim Music)
Vadim strikes again with another French orchestral-funk bomb, this time a killer reissue of composer/keyboardist Laurent Petitgirard's 1971 album Pop Instrumental De France. Any record that kicks off with a lush, decadanse-vibed cover of Frank Zappa's "Mr. Green Jeans," one of my all-time favorite songs (Zappa haters wait outside!) is already scoring points on paper alone. Thankfully, the version here is gorgeous -- all harpsichords, funky drums, and woozy strings, it starts the proceedings in a rather stately, majestic fashion. From there we get hefty helpings of percolating funk & strings, including an organ-led groover dedicated to the memory of saxophonist Albert Ayler, a sweet Franco-Latin boogaloo number bolstered by handclaps and chants of "Soho!!", loping crabwalk grooves, choral vocal flourishes, and flutes aplenty. I'll be honest in saying that I wasn't crazy about this record upon first listen while working in the shop; it wasn't until I could sit at home with headphones on and soak in all of the details that I really began to appreciate and in turn really get into what Petitgirard has going on here. It's now become one of my favorite releases this week, and is highly recommended to fans of the church of Gainsbourg and Vannier, and to anyone looking for some solid, well orchestrated Pop-Prog groovers. Good stuff! [IQ]
I have tried to download ‘Albert Ayler in Memoriam’, but apart from a couple of dodgy sites (and my computer is in a very parlous state at the moment, so I don’t want to risk them) all I can find is this Japanese video site which has the complete album. The ‘Ayler’ track is second, following a version of Frank Zappa’s ‘Mr. Green Genes’ (which should please friend Clive - although, maybe not) around the 3:50 mark. However, once you’ve listened to it once it seems to self-destruct in Mission: Impossible style, but that could be my computer objecting. There are several other tracks from the album on youtube which give you an idea of the style of the music. Here’s the back cover:
Pierre Crépon came across this photo of Albert Ayler from the Fondation Maeght by Gérard Rouy and commented; “The number of pictures of those concerts in existence is simply staggering!” I came across another one (photographer uncredited) on the Albert Ayler Facebook group:
And, since we’re on the subject of photographers and have drifted away from Albert Ayler, I thought I might as well mention that there was a programme on BBC TV on 26th October, Blues and Beyond with Cerys Matthews and Val Wilmer, which is currently available on the iplayer.
And finally ...
Dirk Goedeking sent a couple of other items, which I thought I’d end with. This drawing, Albert Ayler in a Spray of Sunflowers is from Mark Kerstetter’s blog, posted in February, 2014 after Mark’s poem, ‘Truth Comes Marching In—Remembering Albert and Donald Ayler’ was published on the Jerry Jazz Musician site. Mark gives some background to his poem and discusses the Ayler brothers, making a tentative link with Vincent and Theo Van Gogh.
The picture drove Dirk to drink and he found this Albert Ayler cocktail on the Drinkify site. Basically, it’s just a gin and lime, but for some reason, which neither Dirk nor I understand, it specifies mixing two brands of gin. Still, as I don my tin hat and prepare to enter ‘Safe Mode’ in search of the password which I know is not there but which my computer keeps asking me for, I could do with knocking back a couple of ‘Albert Aylers’.
December 1 2018
An Ayler Xmas Volume 2
ESP, erstwhile home of the Ayler discography, gets into the Christmas spirit with the release of the second volume of Mars Williams’ mash-up of Ayler tunes and Christmas music. An Ayler Xmas Vol. 2 includes the following tracks:
1. Xmas Medley 2. O Tannenbaum/Spirits/12 Days of Christmas 3. Love Cry/Christmas Wrapping 4. Carol of the Drum/Bells/O Come Emanuel/Joy to the World 5. Universal Indians/We Wish You a Merry Xmas
Nice to see The Waitresses’ ‘Christmas Wrapping’ on there - apparently Williams played on their original recording. There’s more information about An Ayler Xmas Vol. 2 and the upcoming promotional tour on the Mars Williams’ site.
... some relating to Albert Ayler in a very tangential fashion, but I thought worth a mention:
Charles Mingus has a new CD out! A rediscovered concert recording from 1973.
There’s a review on the Pitchfork site, which includes the following:
‘Around the time of this Detroit show, he questioned the emotionally charged improvisations of Albert Ayler: “[He] can’t enjoy that,” he told John Goodman. “It’s impossible to enjoy that.”’
There’s a new album from the Ogún Meji Duo, For Those Who Have Gone, But Still Remain, which features a tribute to Albert: ‘Albert Ayler Is Ringing Them Bells’.
This is an odd one - Black Fire! New Spirits! Deep and Radical Jazz in the USA 1957-75 - a box set in CD and vinyl varieties, which features one of Elliott Landy’s photographs of Albert Ayler on the back cover, but there’s no Ayler track listed in the box.
And here’s Steve Tintweiss with news of a forthcoming release:
“Here is the cover mockup for the 45rpm 12" vinyl first ever release of the spacelight band. This recording was from our Labor Day 1992 concert at Forest Park Bandshell in Queens, NYC. Playing my originals Whistle Stop Tour b/w Ash Dung Blues Bowl. The personnel: Byard Lancaster - alto saxophone Rowan Storm - vocals & doumbek drums Ric Frank - tenor saxophone Lou Grassi - trap drums & percussion Steve Tintweiss - 5-str double bass, bandleader This will be first imprint on INKY DoT MEDIA [IDM 2018 EP001] coming soon.”
And bringing up the rear, this, from ebay, a black version of Bells. No idea what vintage.
Pierre Crépon let me know about a previously unpublished interview with Marzette Watts, conducted by Chris Flicker and Thierry Trombert in 1974, which Pierre edited and has now been published in The Wire. I have to admit that beyond the name, I was totally unfamiliar with Marzette Watts and his music, so the interview was a revelation to me. The Ayler content is peripheral (although there’s always that vague wisp of hope that their jam sessions were recorded) but there is this one exchange worth noting:
“I got an electronic saxophone in 1967 [a Selmer Varitone], and Rashied [Ali] and I had a loft together [at 107–109 Broadway, Brooklyn, a building where at times Don Cherry, Marion Brown, Clifford Thornton, Ric Colbeck and Roger Blank also resided], and I took it there and was almost attacked by everybody except Albert Ayler, who really really could hear it, and really dug it, you know. I finally abandoned it, because it sounded too much like an organ and you couldn’t get the saxophone sound out of it.”
Also, Steve Tintweiss has added a comment to the piece and the version of ‘Lonely Woman’ he refers to is available on youtube. Talking of which ...
The Ghosts are laid to rest
The final version of ‘Ghosts’ on youtube for 2018. This one, for piano, is by Joe Nowell (so close) and was recorded in Murlo, Siena (Italy) on July 31st, 2018.