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Bebop Spoken There

Greg Osby: “I have my own style, my own attitude, my own opinions about things. I'm not a follower". DownBeat, February, 2024.

The Things They Say!

Hudson Music: Lance's "Bebop Spoken Here" is one of the heaviest and most influential jazz blogs in the UK.

Rupert Burley (Dynamic Agency): "BSH just goes from strength to strength".

'606' Club: "A toast to Lance Liddle of the terrific jazz blog 'Bebop Spoken Here'"

The Strictly Smokin' Big Band included Be Bop Spoken Here (sic) in their 5 Favourite Jazz Blogs.

Ann Braithwaite (Braithwaite & Katz Communications) You’re the BEST!

Holly Cooper, Mouthpiece Music: "Lance writes pull quotes like no one else!"

Simon Spillett: A lovely review from the dean of jazz bloggers, Lance Liddle...

Josh Weir: I love the writing on bebop spoken here... I think the work you are doing is amazing.


16233 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 16 years ago. 115 of them this year alone and, so far, 59 this month (Feb. 23).

From This Moment On ...

February 2024

Fri 23: Mark Williams Trio @ The Gala, Durham. 1:00pm. £8.00. SOLD OUT!
Fri 23: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 23: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 23: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ The Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.
Fri 23: Salty Dog Trio @ The Greenhouse, Tynemouth. 7:00pm. £8.00. (£6.00. adv.). CANCELLED!
Fri 23: Crooners @ The Maltings, Berwick upon Tweed. 7:30pm. £30.00., £28.00.
Fri 23: Strictly Smokin' Big Band w Dennis Rollins @ Glasshouse, Gateshead. 8:00pm.

Sat 24: NUJO Jazz Jam @ Cobalt Studios, Newcastle. 7:00pm (doors). Free (donations). A Newcastle University Jazz Orchestra event, all welcome.
Sat 24: Bradley Creswick’s Western Swingfonia @ Hexham Abbey, Hexham. 7:30pm. £15.00. A fundraiser for Hexham Abbey.
Sat 24: Papa G’s Troves @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig.

Sun 25: Musicians Unlimited @ The Park Inn, Hartlepool. 1:00pm. Free.
Sun 25: More Jam @ The Globe, Newcastle. 2:30pm. Free.
Sun 25: 4B @ The Ticket Office, Whitley Bay Metro Station. 3:00pm. Free.
Sun 25: Lindsay Hannon: Tom Waits for No Man + Lee Maddison @ Laurels, Whitley Bay. 4:00pm (3:30pm doors). £11.00., £8.80. inc. bf. SOLD OUT!
Sun 25: Bex Burch + Rachel Musson @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm. £11.00. Two solo performances. JNE.
Sun 25: Jazz Jam @ Fabio's, Saddler St., Durham. 8:00pm. Free. A Durham University Jazz Society event. All welcome.

Mon 26: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.

Tue 27: Ruth Lambert Quartet @ The Black Swan, Newcastle. 8:00pm (7:00pm doors). £12.00., £10.00. (adv.).

Wed 28: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Wed 28: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Free. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 28: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free.

Thu 29: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside. 1:00pm. Free.
Thu 29: Gateshead Jazz Appreciation Society @ Gateshead Central Library, Gateshead. 2:30pm.
Thu 29: Student Performances @ King’s Hall, Newcastle University. 4:00pm. Free. Inc. Olly Styles (saxophone).
Thu 29: ’58 Jazz Collective @ Hops & Cheese, Hartlepool. 7:00pm. Free.
Thu 27: Student Jazz Jam @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm.
Thu 29: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman’s Club, Middlesbrough. 8:30pm. Guests: Richie Emmerson (tenor sax); Josh Bentham (alto sax); Graham Thompson (keys); Adrian Beadnell (bass).

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Book review: Richard Koloda - Holy Ghost – The Life & Death of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler

Listening to Albert Ayler’s early albums whilst reading this book is an exercise in submersion that is not for everybody. Indeed Blue Note’s Michael Cuscuna is quoted at one point, when describing a concert featuring john Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, and Albert Ayler amongst others “… it scared me half to death, yet stimulated every aspect of my being. I don’t know if I loved it or hated it, but I was not indifferent to it….” Following my submersion I know exactly what he means.

There is much to unpick in Albert Ayler’s music. On first hearing it can be quite forbidding with threatening, abrasive, argumentative yelling on the tenor sax appearing to be the dominant, if not the only, sound. Closer attention to the music reveals the history of jazz, swing, suggestions of opera, the influence of Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, then current rhythm and blues, marching songs, be-bop and even a soprano reaching for the high note. What there is no suggestion of, especially on the three classics from 1964 is any artifice. His was bold, honest music that sought to lay out his strengths and weaknesses as a human being, his own blues and his spirituality which was a seam of humanist Christianity. And the music lives on. Ayler built on Coltrane and Coleman and his voice can still be heard today, as anyone who saw The Comet Is Coming last week at the Boiler Shop in Newcastle will attest.  One of the great virtues of this biography is that it is a great guide to what to listen out for. It directs your listening and points out hidden depths that, otherwise, may have passed by even the most attentive listener.

The consensus seems to be that Ayler’s career described an arc from his tentative debut with Something Different!!!!!! in 1962, through a stronger My Name Is Albert Ayler in 1963 (a Swedish session), finding his feet with Spirits in 1964, a mis-step with an album of spirituals from the same session on which he sounds too constrained (Swing Low Sweet Spiritual) and then a series of stonewall classics late in the year with Prophecy, Albert Smiles With Sunny and Spiritual Unity. There then followed a series of less successful recordings before he signed to Impulse, recording two well-received live albums but then three further albums whereon he tried to move towards mainstream acceptability. It is questionable whether an artist who was as far out as Ayler could ever make the journey from the edge to the centre ground without losing too much of himself. There is a final resurgence with a series of concerts in France which finally saw the light of day last year (Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings) and then…… Then, there was the mystery of his death, the dramatic, unexplained, almost Hollywood end to his life in late 1970.

The book itself mixes biography with discography and critical comment from the reviews of the time and, occasionally, more recent reflections that benefit from hindsight, and tells the tale very well. It is structured, as most biographies are, with the early years, early struggles, early successes, the peak, later struggles and decline. If there is a weakness it is that Koloda doesn’t go deeply enough into Ayler’s spiritual and doesn’t tie the music to the beliefs as expressed through the music. This aspect of his life was crucial to Ayler and can be seen in the titles of both his compositions and albums. (See, for example, the tracks on Prophecy - Spirits, Wizard, Ghosts, Prophecy). Koloda was close to Albert and his family and was even closer to Donald Ayler, Albert’s younger brother, a trumpeter who played on many of his recordings. He has carried out extensive research, (evidenced by an 18 page bibliography and sources section at the end), yet it is still concise, telling the story in 272 pages.

He puts forward the theories surrounding Ayler’s disappearance and death and holds them up for inspection without the ridicule that some of the ideas deserve. At the end it looks like suicide; Ayler was too human, feeling guilt for dismissing his brother from the band and had money and relationship troubles. It is clear, in how he viewed the world, that no one ever needed to remind him of his failings.

As ever, with any musician’s biographies, part of the fun is what you listen to whilst reading it. For this I turned to Albert Ayler: The Early Albums Collection, his first 8 albums in a box set from Enlightenment, which clocks in at a mighty 308 minutes!

Finally, a fun fact to close with. ESP-Disk, the label that recorded Ayler in the mid-sixties, along with Pharaoh Sanders, Sun Ra, Bud Powell and Ornette Coleman and many others was originally set up to release songs in Esperanto, hence the label name. It’s first and only release in Esperanto was Ni Kantu En Esperanto. I haven’t heard of it, don’t know if it’s any good.

Holy Ghost is available through all the usual outlets. Dave Sayer

Holy Ghost – The Life & Death of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler by Richard Koloda (Jawbone Press – 2022)

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1911036939, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1911036937


Richard J Koloda said...

Thank you so much --I enjoyed reading the review.

Steve T said...

I like to synchronise reading and listening (I also like to read books before watching the film/play/boxset - I'm very intertextual) and I have said Albert Ayler CD set so who knows.

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