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Bebop Spoken There

Art Blakey: "You [Bobby Watson] don't want to play too long, because you don't know they're clapping because they're glad you finished!" - (JazzTimes, Nov. 2019)..

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!"


15867 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 15 years ago. 874 of them this year alone and, so far, 72 this month (Sept. 25).

From This Moment On ...


Sat 30: John Pope Quintet + Late Girl + Shapeshifters @ Bobik's, Jesmond, Newcastle.
Sat 30: Papa G's Troves @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. A 'Jar on the Bar' gig.


Sun 01: Smokin' Spitfires @ The Cluny, Newcastle. 12:45pm.
Sun 01: Dulcie May Moreno sings Portrait of Sheila @ Central Bar, Gateshead. 2:00pm. £10.00. Moreno sings Sheila Jordan with Giles Strong, Mick Shoulder & John Bradford.
Sun 01: Middlesbrough Jazz & Blues Orchestra @ Saltburn Community Hall. 2:00pm.
Sun 01: The Easy Rollers @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 7:00pm. £13.70., £11.55.
Sun 01: Brand/Roberts/Champion/Sanders @ Blank Studios, Newcastle. 8:00pm. A Newcastle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music event.
Sun 01: Papa G's Troves @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.

Mon 02: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Mon 02: FILM: Wattstax; 50th Anniversary @ Forum Cinema, Hexham. 8:00pm.

Tue 03: Paul Skerritt @ The Rabbit Hole, Hallgarth St., Durham DH1 3AT. 7:00pm. Paul Skerritt's (solo) weekly residency.
Tue 03: Jam session @ The Black Swan, Newcastle. 7:30pm. House trio: Michael Young (piano); Paul Grainger (double bass); Sid White (drums). CANCELLED!

Wed 04: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Wed 04: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 04: Paul Skerritt @ Vespa Italian Bar & Steakhouse, Primrose Hill, Jarrow. From 7:00pm. To book a table - 0191 483 3355.
Wed 04: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm.

Thu 05: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside. 1:00pm. Free.
Thu 05: Sound the Trumpets @ King's Hall, Newcastle University. 1:15pm. Free.
Thu 05: Hot Club du Nord @ The Lubetkin Theatre, Peterlee. 7:00pm. £10.00. POSTPONED!
Thu 05: Thursday Night Prayer Meeting @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm.
Thu 05: Tommy Bentz Trio + Mark Croft Duo + George Shovlin & George Lamb @ The Harbour View, Sunderland. 8:00pm. Free. Harbour View Speakeasy's USA blues double bill + Shovlin & Lamb!
Thu 05: Merlin Roxby @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Ragtime piano. A 'Jar on the Bar' gig.
Thu 05: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman's Club, Middlesbrough. 9:00pm.

Fri 06: Alcyona Mick @ Lit & Phil, Newcastle. 1:00pm. A Newcastle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music event.
Fri 06: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Fri 06: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.
Fri 06: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms, Monkseaton. 1:00pm.
Fri 06: WORKSHOP: Philosophy of Arts & Entertainment @ Lit & Phil, Newcastle. 2:00pm. A Newcastle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music event.
Fri 06: Balo @ Lit & Phil, Newcastle. 6:20pm. A Newcastle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music event.
Fri 06: Paul Skerritt @ 3Sixty Champagne Lounge, Hadrian’s Tower, Newcastle. From 7:00pm. To book a table - 0191 933 8591.
Fri 06: Lexer/Mayes/Noble + Semay Wu + Miman @ Lit & Phil, Newcastle. 7:20pm. A Newcastle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music event.
Fri 06: Dulcie May Moreno @ The Vault, Hexham. 7:30pm. £20.00. Book in advance. Moreno with Alan Law, Paul Grainger & John Bradford.
Fri 06: Dean Stockdale Quartet @ Saltburn Community Hall. 7:30pm. 'Celebrating Oscar'.
Fri 06: Nu Brass Sounds: Big Brass Bash @ Billy Bootlegger’s, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Free.
Fri 06: TBC @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Blind Pig Blues Club. A 'Jar on the Bar' gig.

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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