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Bebop Spoken There

Kelly Sill: "Just because everyone is playing through the changes in the same time doesn't mean they're actually playing together" - (JazzTimes March/April 2023).

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!"


15260 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 15 years ago. 279 of them this year alone and, so far, 92 this month (March 29).

From This Moment On ...


Sun 02: Smokin' Spitfires @ The Cluny. 12:45pm.
Sun 02: 4B @ The Exchange, North Shields. 3:00pm.

Mon 03: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.

Tue 04: Paul Skerritt @ The Rabbit Hole, Hallgarth St., Durham DH1 3AT. 7:00pm. Paul Skerritt's (solo) weekly residency.
Tue 04: Jam session @ Black Swan, Newcastle Arts Centre. 7:30pm. House trio: Bradley Johnston (guitar); Paul Grainger (double bass); Abbie Finn (drums).

Wed 05: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Wed 05: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 05: 4B @ The Exchange, North Shields. 7:00pm.
Wed 05: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm.

Thu 06: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside. 1:00pm. Free.
Thu 06: Thursday Night Prayer Meeting @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Donations. Feat. John Pope, Marie Shreer, John Garner.
Thu 06: Merlin Roxby @ Prohibtion Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Ragtime piano. A 'Jar on the Bar' gig.
Thu 06: Darlington Big Band @ Dorman's Club, Middlesbrough. 8:30pm. Note earlier start time.

Fri 07: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Fri 07: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.
Fri 07: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms, Monkseaton. 1:00pm.
Fri 07: Gaz Hughes Trio @ Saltburn Community Hall. 7:30pm.
Fri 07: Mark Toomey Quartet @ Traveller's Rest, Darlington. 8:00pm. £8.00.
Fri 07: Finntet + Zoë Gilby & Andy Champion @ Bobik's, Punch Bowl, Newcastle. 8:00pm. JNE.
Fri 07: TBA @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. A 'Jar on the Bar' gig. Blind Pig Blues Club.

Sat 08: Me Lost Me + Ceitidh Mac + Heather Ferrier @ Bobik's, Punch Bowl, Newcastle. 7:30pm. JNE.
Sat 08: Joseph Carville Trio @ The Vault, Darlington Covered Market, Darlington DL1 5PN. 6:00pm. New venue, live jazz!
Sat 08: Rendezvous Jazz @ Red Lion, Earsdon. 8:00pm. £3.00. RESCHEDULED from last week (Sat 01).
Sat 08: Robbie Reay @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Acoustic blues. A 'Jar on the Bar' gig.
Sat 08: Anth Purdy @ Mr Tighe's, Bebside, Northumberland. 8:30pm.

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

1 comment :

Richard J Koloda said...

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

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