how you listen to it JAZZ is ostensibly about FREEDOM.
the MYSTERY surrounding it.
MUSIC, it is an ABSTRACT.
FORMS (SOUNDS!) are DISTINCT and PERSONAL and SENSITIVE to each
And the DESIRE
not just another word for nothing left to lose.
We know this
from MESSAGES beamed from the space-lantern of his cosmic highness
+ + + +
improvise a solo within a structural context may have begun with
a young Louis Armstrong in the early '20s. As a boy he grew up
in New Orleans hearing and seeing musicians both black and white
cultivating a celebratory and spiritual vibe.
flowers in the dustbin.
stole the horns and drums. The captured African would not be allowed
to communicate as they had.
FREEDOM ACT the freed slave sought and fought for the EXPRESSION
And THE FREEDOM
Morton, like Louis Armstrong, began to record compositions of
PURE BLACK AWARENESS. Both these men had been witnesses, early
in the century, to BUDDY BOLDEN - a man who supposedly blew the
cornet so masterfully (and so loud!) that his legend was rampant.
He supposedly recorded upon a cylinder (pre-vinyl format) and
it has yet to be found!!
improvisation, live and on recordings, became increasingly more
sophisticated and political throughout the '40s, '50s and '60s.
From Lester Youngs' twisting reedy tones to Charlie Parker's spurious
key changes and (along with Miles Davis, Max Roach, et al) hyper-fast
was the man. With the introduction of the long-playing record,
people like Trane could experiment and extend their playing for
communicated around the world. Trane's SOUND was BEAUTIFUL and
COMPLEX and inspired all who received it. Trane himself was duly
inspired by some of the most far-out musicians of the then burgeoning
jazz avant-garde. Chief among them was Sun Ra & his Arkestra.
of experimentation abounded throughout the '50s and '60s. Trane,
Ra, Ornette Coleman and his white plastic alto playing notes and
tones at once beautiful and harsh. Thelonius Monk, Lennie Tristano,
Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy composing and playing music inspired
by whole worlds of experience (blues, eastern and western classical,
no one had yet imagined would emanate from the wild hearts of
those such as Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor.
all names of artists commonly associated with the avant-garde
jazz underground of the 20th century. They all recorded fairly
prolifically throughout their lifetimes (and some, like Cecil
Taylor, continue). But there were so many more musicians performing
and recording so-called "new" music at the time. It happened mostly
in the late '60s/early '70s with the concept of artist-run collectives
coming into fruition.
To play jazz
totally FREE and ORGANIC was a gesture whose time had come in
the '60s. It was SOCIAL and POLITICAL for reasons involving relationship,
race, fury, rage, peace, war, love and FREEDOM.
for artifacts from this underground constantly. They were arcane
and obscure at the time and are even more so today. No record
labels are reissuing this stuff (some are, for example, Evidence
Records reissuing all of Sun Ra's independent Saturn label releases).
list of 10 (out of hundreds of) LPs recorded in total grassroots
fashion from the FREE-JAZZ underground. These are fairly impossible
to locate and if you want to know what FREE-JAZZ may sound like
you can get CDs of certain crucial classics where this music was
allowed to exist: John Coltrane - Interstellar Space (Impulse/MCA),
Ornette Coleman - Beauty Is A Rare Thing (Atlantic/Rhino), The
Art Ensemble - 1967/68 (Nessa, PO Box 394, Whitehall, MI 49461),
Sun Ra - various titles (Evidence).
+ + + + +
FREE JAZZ UNDERGROUND
Echo (BYG 529.320/Actuel Volume 20)
In the fall
of 1969 Free Jazz was reaching a kind of nadir/nexus. Within the
industry it was controversial. Classic traditionalists (beboppers
included) were outraged by men in dashikis and sandals jumping
on stage and just BLOWING their guts out creating screaming torrents
of action. Most musicians involved with this crying anarchy could
get no bookings beyond the New York loft set. The French lovers
of the avant-garde embraced this African-American scene wholly.
This recording is one of many in a series of LPs with consistent
design. BYG released classic Free Jazz documents by Archie Shepp
(at his wildest), Clifford Thornton, Art Ensemble of Chicago,
Grachan Moncur III, Sunny Murray, Alan Silva, Arthur Jones, Dewey
Redman and many others. A lot of these cats are present on this
recording where from the first groove it sounds like an acoustic
tidal wave exploding into shards of dynamite. If you can locate
Alan Silva's "Lunar Surface" LP (BYG 529.312/Actuel Vol. 12),
you'll find a world even that much more OUT.
GRAVES & DON PULLEN
Nommo (S.R.P. LP-290)
be one of the most important players in the Free Jazz underground.
He enforces the sense of community as a primary exponent of his
freely improvised music. His drumkit is home-made and he rarely
performs outside of his neighborhood. When he does perform he
plays his kit like no other. Wild, slapping, bashing, tribal freak-outs
interplexed with silence, serenity and enlightened meditation.
This LP was manufactured by the artists in 1967 and is recorded
live at Yale University. The interplay between Milford and Don
(piano) is remarkable and very free. There's a second volume which
also is as rare as hen's teeth.
Plus 4 - Alabama Feeling (AK-BA AK-1030)
a strange cat. Not too many people know where he's from (Alabama
is a good guess). He resided in New York City in the '70s and
showed up in loftspaces spitting out incredible post-Aylerisms.
Mystic music which took on the air of chasing ghosts and spirits
through halls of mirrors (!). He hooked up with noise/action guitarist
Rudolph Grey who was making the current No-Wave scene and with
Beaver Harris (drums) they played gigs in front of unsuspecting
art creeps apparently not "hip" enough to dig, let alone document,
the history blasting their brains. Arthur did release this lo-fi
masterpiece and it's a spiraling cry of freedom and fury. AKBA
Records released a number of classic NYC loft-jazz sessions, most
notably those of label boss Charles Tyler, a screaming tenor player
who also blew with Rudolph in the late '70s/early '80s. Arthur
continues to play/teach etc. in Binghamton, N.Y. and recently
released in 1993 "More Alabama Feeling" on yours truly's Ecstatic
Peace label (available from Forced Exposure/POB 9102/Waltham,
Sonny's Time Now (Jihad 663)
the drummer considered to be the first to realize and recognize
and perform, on drums, pure FREE jazz. He played behind and along
with Ayler early on and Cecil Taylor. He constructed groups which
always flew and raged with spiritual abandon. He took time as
an abstract and turned it into free motion. This recording is
super-lo-fi and is awesome. On it play Ayler (tenor) and Don Cherry
(trumpet) as well as Leroi Jones (now known as Amiri Baraka) reading
a killer poem called "Black Art". This music is very Ayler but
more fractured and odd. Like a lot of these records there is only
a front cover with the back of the jacket blank. Whether this
was done for economic or artistic reasons is unclear. Jihad was
a concern of Leroi Jones and anything released on this label is
utterly obscure. The only other title I've seen is one just called
"BLACK AND BEAUTIFUL" from the mid-'60s which is Leroi and friends
sitting on the stoops of Harlem chanting, beating drums and celebrating
Leroi's "poems" ("The white man/at best/is... corny!").
There was an ad for Jihad in an old issue of Jazz & Pop magazine
which announced a Don Ayler (Albert's amazing trumpet-playing
bro) LP but I've yet to meet anyone who's actually seen this.
"Sonny's Time Now" was reissued a few years ago in Japan (DIW-25002)
on CD and LP (with an enclosed 7" of two extra scratchy tracks!)
but even that is near impossible to locate. Recorded in 1965.
RIC COLBECK QUARTET
The Sun Is Coming Up (Fontana 6383 001)
the UK only in 1970. Ric was an interesting white cat who came
to the U.S. to blow some free e-motion with NYC loft dwellers.
He's most well known for his amazing playing on the great Noah
Howard's first ESP-Disk release (ESP 1031). The whole 1000 series
of ESP is critical and crucial to anybody wanting to explore this
era of Free Jazz featuring recordings by Ayler, Ornette, Sonny
Simmons, Sun Ra, Henry Grimes, Steve Lacy, Sunny Murray, Marzette
Watts, Patty Waters, et al. I'm not including any of these in
this list as they're all available on CD now (from Forced Exposure,
address above). The picture of Ric on the Noah Howard LP shows
a man with race-car shades and a "cool" haircut playing his horn
while a ciggie burns nonchalantly from his relaxed grip. A very
hip dude. And very FREE. His only solo recording is this Fontana
LP which he recorded while cruising through Europe. He connected
with South African drummer Selwyn Lissack (whatever happened to...)
and the UK's famous avant-altoist Mike Osborne and bassist J.F.
'Jenny' Clark (student of 20th century compositionists Lucian
Berio and Karlheinz Stockhausen) to create this exceptional and
TCHICAI AND CADENTIA NOVA DANICA
Afrodisiaca (MPS CRM711)
a 6'6" Danish/Congolese tenor sax player who, in the early '60s,
started blowing minds all across the Netherlands with his radical
"music for the future". Archie Shepp encouraged him to come to
NYC and join like-minded souls of avant-guardia. Tchicai came
over and kicked everybody's ass. Leroi Jones shouted his name
and talent loudly as Tchicai hooked up with Shepp and Don Cherry
for the New York Contemporary Five and later an even heavier ensemble
with Milford Graves and Roswell Rudd called the New York Art Quartet.
The NYAQ recorded one of the most crucial sessions for ESP-Disk
(esp1004) which had Leroi reciting his infamous BLACK DADA NIHILISMUS
(available on CD from Forced Exposure). AFRODISIACA was released
in Germany (and in other re-release configurations... supposedly)
and is Tchicai gathered with 25 other local-Euro musicians playing
a hurricane of a piece by trumpet/composer Hugh Steinmetz. This
music gets way way out and has the real ability to take you "there".
The echo effect on some of this shit is quite ill in a very analog
way. And the way the shit gets that dirty-needled distortion at
the end of side one (all 25 cats GOING AT IT!) is beautiful, baby,
ALI and FRANK LOWE
Duo Exchange (Survival SR101)
has been studying and playing a consistently developing tenor
sax style for a few decades now. At present he's been swinging
through a Lester Young trip which can be heard majestically on
his Ecstatic Peace recording (E#19... from Forced Exp.) In the
early '70s, however, he was a firebrande who snarled and blew
hot lava skronk from loft to loft. He played with Alice Coltrane
on some of her more out sessions. Rashied Ali was the free-yet-disciplined
drummer whom Coltrane enlisted to play alongside Elvin Jones and
Pharaoh Sanders (and Alice) in his last mind-bending, space-maniacal
recordings (check out surely the Coltrane/Ali duet CD Interstellar
Space). Elvin quit the group cuz Rashied was too hardcore. Those
were the fuckin' days. And Rashied had his own club downtown NYC
called Ali's Alley! Duo Exchange is Rashied and Frank completely
going at it and just burning notes and chords where ever they
can find 'em. Totally sick. Survival was Rashied's record label
which had cool b&w matte sleeves and some crucial releases
mostly with his quartet/quintet and a duo session with violinist
PETER BROTZMANN SEXTET/QUARTET
Nipples (Calig - CAL30604)
of Free Jazz-era Coltrane, Ayler, Esp-disk, Shepp, etc., on hard
drinking, knuckle-biting European white cats is formidable. These
guys didn't care so much about plaing "jazz" as just totally ripping
their guts out with high-energy, brain-plowing NOISE. Brotzmann
(sax, German), Evan Parker (sax, UK), Derek Bailey (guitar, UK),
and Han Bennink (drums, Dutch) are a few of the spearheaders of
this Free-Euro scene and are caught on this insanely rare early
document. The b&w cover has a fold-out accordion post card
set of personal images of the musicians glued and paperclipped
to its front. Brotzmann went on to help further the critical documentation
of the Euro-Free-Jazz scene with FMP (Free Music Productions)
Records which still exists to this day. There are over a 100 releases
on this label of pure Euro-improv and they all offer remarkable
moments. Derek Bailey went on to create his own categorically
similar Incus Records in the UK which is also still extant. As
is the Han Bennink associated I.C.P. (Instant Composers Pool)
Records. The most mind-blasting of these recordings may be MACHINE
GUN (FMP 24 CD available from NorthCountry Distr./Cadence Bldg./Redwood,
NY 13679) where Brotzmann leads an octet through a smashing clanging
wonderland of noise. Improvisation and classic western musics
are seriously tended to by a large Euro community and it's all
pretty fascinating. Check out the works of Alexander von Schlippenbach,
Barry Guy & The London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Misha Mengleberg,
Peter Kowald, Andre Jaume, Andrea Centazzo, Lol Coxhill and just
about anybody who plays with them.
MARZETTE WATTS ENSEMBLE
was a serious black art cat who resided in downtown NYC when Free
Jazz as a NEW cultural revolution was in full gear. He painted
and composed wonderful music where some of the coolest locals
could flow their flavor. One of the heaviest ESP-disk recordings
is Marzette's MARZETTE AND COMPANY (On CD from Forced Exposure)
which has the incredible talents of saxist Byard Lancaster (who
released an early indie b&w Free Jazz classic out of Philly
called LIVE AT MCALLISTER COLLEGE - find it and send it to me...)
and guitarist Sonny Sharrock (check his wild influence on Pharaoh
Sanders' TAUHID Impulse CD and his own obscure noise guitar masterpiece
BLACK WOMAN on Vortex) and cornetist Clifford Thornton (academic
NEW MUSIC/Free Jazz "teacher" who released a few crucial sides
such as COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK on Third World and THE PANTHER
AND THE LASH on America) and the amazing free vocalist Patty Waters
(who recorded two infamous hair-raising platters on ESP-Disc).
This recording on Savoy was one of a series produced by Bill Dixon,
an early associate of Archie Shepp's, who was an incredible composer
in his own right. I've heard tapes of Dixon leading Free-Jazz
orchestras into sonic symphonic heavens. Very hardcore.
I list because of all its obvious loaded references but it's also
quite happening and anything with Marzette, Dixon (especially
INTENTS AND PURPOSES on RCA Victor), Byard (careful, there's some
clinkers) and Clifford is extremely worthwhile.
In Sommerhausen (Calig 30 605)
In Paris, Aries 1973 (BAG 324 000)
Uhuru Na Umoja (America 30 AM 6104)
(SKI NO. 1)
Indent, part 2 (Unit Core 30555)
tie for last? Well, seeing as there's no "beginning" or "end"
to this shit I have to list as many items as possible just to
reiterate the fact that there was (indeed) a ton o' groovy artifactual
evidence to support the reality of the existence of FREE MUSIC.
Dig? There're used record stores all over the country (the world!)
and they all have the potential to be hiding some of these curios
among the bins and most peeps just ain't sure of their worth and
sometimes you can find 'em really cheap. It's definitely a marketplace
of the rarefied so when peeps are "hip" to it expect this shit
to be way pricey.
was/is an alto player who made an incredible LP with Tony Oxley
and Maarten Altena called "Porto Novo" that just twists and burns
start to finish. Marion could really get on OUT as well as just
play straight up. Shepp dug him and got him to do some great LP's
on Impulse. He had a septet at one point that was especially remarkable
featuring Beaver Harris (drums), Dave Burrell (piano), Grachan
Moncur III (bone), and Alan Shorter (trumpet). Alan being Wayne
Shorter's (Miles Davis sideman/classicist) brother. Where Wayne
was fairly contemporary (though eclectic as a muh'fuck) Alan was
strictly ill and has two obscuro LPs worth hunting down: "Orgasm"
(Verve V6 8768) and "Tes Estat" (America AM 6118). "In Sommerhausen"
is Marion in late '60s exploratory fashion and is quite freaky
with the vocal whoops of Jeanne Lee. There's another LP from this
period called "Gesprachsfetzen" (Calig CAL 30601) which really
lays down the scorch.
Artists Group was a unit not unlike that of The Art Ensemble of
Chicago. Except they only recorded this one document and it only
came out in France on a label named after the group. This is squeaky,
spindly stuff and very OPEN and a good indication of what was
happening in the early '70s with members Oliver Lake (later of
the infamous World Saxophone Quartet) and Joseph Bowie (Art Ensemble's
Lester Bowie's bro, later to start Defunkt).
Frank Wright may be (previous to Charles Gayle's current reign)
the heir apparent to both Trane and Ayler. Unfortunately he had
a heart attack a few years back while rockin' the bandstand. All
his recordings are more than worthwhile especially his BYG outing
"One For John" (529.336/Actuel Vol. 36), his two ESP sessions
(on CD from Forced Exposure) and his Center-of-the-World series
of trio recordings with Alan Silva (bass) and Muhammed Ali (drums
- Rashied's brother, not the pugilist) on the French label Sun.
This LP "Uhuru..." is nothing short of killer with the great Noah
Howard (alto), Bobby Few (pianist of Steve Lacy fame) and Art
Taylor (heavy old-school drummer in free mode) going OUT and AT
IT in stunning reverie.
of course, made a strong impression on the more existential-sensitive
populace of Japan. Some real masters came out of the Japanese
scene and were influential to some of the more renowned noise
artists of today (Boredoms, Haino Keiji). One such Jap-cat is
alt-saxist Dr. Umezu who has mixed it up with NYC loft-dwellers
on more than one occasion. On this completely obscure, underground
release he unleashed some pretty free shit with the likes of William
Parker (bass), Ahmed Abdullah (trumpet) and Rashid Shinan (drums).
Parker is possibly one of the most important FREE musicians working
in NYC. He's got his own constant writing/performing schedule
as well as gigs with anyone from Cecil Taylor to Charles Gayle.
He recorded one solo LP in the '70s called "Through Acceptance
of the Mystery Peace" (Centering Records 1001) which is, as you
might've guessed, "good".
we should wind things up with the king of FREE MUSIC then and
now: Cecil Taylor. Cecil started experimenting with sound, new
concepts of "swing", open rhythms and room dynamics very early
on. He furthered his adventure with music-conservatory studies
and applied a master's technique to his fleeting, furious, highly-sensitive
pianistic ACTIONS. Today he's almost shaman-like in his mystic
noise transploits. He hates record business weasels after years
of scorn and neglect (club owners had been known to beat him up
after gigs claiming he damaged their pianos) and records now for
the aforementioned artist's label FMP. In the early '70s he had
his own label called Unit Core and released two crucial LP's:
the one listed above and one titled "Spring of Two Blue J's" (Unit
Core 30551). This is when his group included two critical figures
on the FREE scene. Alt-saxist Jimmy Lyons (now deceased) was a
consistent improviser and a perfect player alongside Cecil as
was veteran drummer Andrew Cyrille who recorded his own solo (and
duos with the likes of Milford Graves and Peter Brotzmann) LPs
on various small labels (BYG, FMP, Ictus).
it... and that's not it. If you're at all intrigued by this personal
primer do yourself a favor and seek some of this shit out and
free yr fucking mind and yr ass will surely scream and SHOUT.