Reviews that mention Albert Ayler

November 8, 2013

Albert Ayler

Live at the Riviera
ESP-Disk 4801

By Ken Waxman

With a recording history almost as chaotic as his life, hitherto unknown sessions by free jazz avatar Albert Ayler (1936-1970) keep appearing. Ayler’s career was so brief (eight years) and so ground-breaking, that every track – standards-reinterpretation, rock music flirtation or unprecedented free-form expression – has value. Recorded four months before his suicide, Live at the Riviera is doubly important since most previous issues of the saxophonist’s welcome return to free jazz during these French Foundation Maeght concerts have been limited to quintet performances from July 27. Recorded two days earlier, the CD is Ayler accompanied only by bassist Steve Tintweiss, drummer Allen Blairman and the vocals and soprano saxophone of Mary Maria. MORE

April 6, 2013

In Print

Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk, the Most Outrageous Record Label in America
Jason Weiss (Wesleyan University Press)

By Ken Waxman

Visionary, charlatan, crook, naïf – these are just a few of the epitaphs applied to Bernard Stollman who founded the legendary ESP-Disk record label in the early 1960s. Interviewing Stollman and almost three dozen ESP artists, Jason Weiss tries to make sense of its history.

An attorney with aspirations towards art and entrepreneurship, Stollman made ESP a full-fledged imprint after hearing tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler. By chance he had stumbled upon a fertile jazz scene, rife with players who lacked recording opportunities. Soon ESP provided many of the era’s most important musical innovators with the freedom to record without interference. ESP jazz artists included Ayler, Burton Greene, Milford Graves, Paul Bley and Sun Ra plus rockers such as The Fugs and Pearls Before Swine. MORE

August 6, 2012

In Print

Music in My Soul
Noah Howard (Buddy’s Knife)

By Ken Waxman

Metaphorically, alto saxophonist Noah Howard’s musical life mirrored the history of jazz. Born April 6, 1943 in New Orleans, the music’s purported cradle, before his death on Sept. 3, 2010 in Belgium, Howard had travelled to San Francisco and New York, recorded for small labels like ESP-Disk, expatriated overseas, toured Europe, Africa and India, while developing ties with emerging local players. Completed just days before his death from a cerebral hemorrhage, Music in My Soul is written in the artless but competent prose of a constantly working musician with some haziness in chronology, spelling and details. MORE

February 13, 2006

ALBERT AYLER

New Grass
Impulse! B000426902

Weirdest of all of saxophonist Albert Ayler’s bizarre recording sessions, NEW GRASS has been infamous since it was first issued in 1968 as the disc that unsuccessfully tried to turn the avant-garde avatar into a pop star.

Even with the steady beat of drummer Pretty Purdie – who by his own count has been on literally thousands of pop records – simple songs plus a female chorus, if the people at Impulse! Records thought this CD would turn Ayler (1936-1970) into a pop star you wonder what they were smoking. The answer may be in the album title. MORE

June 30, 2003

ARCHIE SHEPP

Attica Blues
Impulse! AS-9222 024 654 414-2

ALBERT AYLER
Music Is The Healing Force of the Universe
Impulse! AS-9191 440 065 383-2

What you’re hearing on these two LP-length CD reissues, recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s, is the metaphoric death throes of the New Thing as a popular music.

But wait, you say, didn’t the angry unmelodic, experimental New Thing itself murder jazz’s popularity when it hijacked the music and drove large audiences away? Not really. Like other pieces of revisionist history perpetuated by the neo-cons this tale has been blown out of proportion to make more miraculous the trad revival of the 1990s. MORE

February 17, 2003

ALBERT AYLER

The Copenhagen tapes
Ayler aylCD-033

Almost 33 years after his death in New York’s East River, an apparent suicide, the stature of tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler as a major musical force keeps growing. His redefinition of horn playing away from empty technique and towards emotional vulnerability, and his insistence on articulating simple themes that easily became vehicles for improvisation, has been acknowledged by everyone short of the most reactionary jazz neo-con.

Today with indie rock stars looking for street cred and exploratory contemporary classical composers joining jazzers in placing the saxophonist in the pantheon that includes Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, it seems that his influence is everywhere. Some commentators even call this musical time the Post-Ayler epoch. MORE