Jazz: The sound of a pet-shop, burning

There are some pretty extreme jazz re-issues around. Better keep your finger on the CD skip-button. It's the New Thing, baby.

Just as there are great novels that you will never read, so there are records that you will never listen to, however historically important they may be. Indeed, you could say that there are some records that don't need to be played at all, for it was enough that they were made in the first place. Albert Ayler is a bit like that. You know the squawks and squeaks of his saxophone had to occur, that jazz history made them both inevitable and necessary, but it's still not sufficient to make you want to sit and listen to him if you can possibly help it.

The latest batch of re-releases from the Impulse label in their "New Thing" series, which includes a double-CD of Ayler's live recordings, rather comes into this category, but the discs are packaged so beautifully that they remain intensely desirable all the same. As fetish objects to hold in your hand, to read and to stroke, they give a real feeling of pleasure. And if you can't resist the impulse to defile Impulse's airtight cellophane seal and give them a spin, this is what you'll find.

Live In Greenwich Village: The Complete Impulse Recordings by Albert Ayler, collects together recordings made at the Village Gate and Village Vanguard nightclubs in 1965 and 1966, when Ayler was at the peak of his career and counted John Coltrane among his admirers. By 1970, when he was 34, he was dead, his body discovered floating in the East River. The music on the two, long discs is extremely variable, with plenty of free jazz squall. The eccentric mix of blues marches, spirituals and old-timey hokum that formed Ayler's typical repertoire are all played with rough, inchoate violence, but you can't deny that there's a terrible beauty there too. The test track on the first CD, "Angels", is an intensely moving ballad that sounds like a template for some entirely new form. Whether you have the heart to hunt for them is another matter, but the collection does vindicate Ayler's peculiar genius, if not his listenability.

Of the other CDs in the batch, Deaf Dumb Blind by Pharoah Sanders, recorded in 1970, is probably the most listener-friendly, consisting of two long tracks in an Afrocentric, percussion-heavy, trance-vein from a band featuring Woody Shaw, Gary Bartz and Lonnie Liston Smith. The opener, with the Pharoah on soprano saxophone, is a killer and mostly stays well within the relatively tuneful limits required by his many jazz-dance fans. The other track is more meditative, sounding almost like the tone-poems of Joe Zawinul's first album from the same period, but equally good. This is an album that can be removed from its sleeve with impunity.

Sanders is also featured on three of the tracks from Alice Coltrane's A Monastic Trio from 1968, along with other ex-John Coltrane sidemen, Rashied Ali and Jimmy Garrison. The tracks are surprisingly earth-bound and bluesy and include a previously unissued solo piano performance for her husband's Expression album of 1967. Again, it's largely great stuff.

Trio Live by the saxophonist Sam Rivers dates from 1973, when the New Thing was already beginning to be usurped by jazz fusion. As if kicking against the pricks, Rivers (whose loft apartment, Studio Rivbea, was one of the key locations for avant-garde jazz in New York), sounds distinctly combative, with improvisations that are often forbiddingly dense, as in the opening track which goes on for 34 minutes, and seems even longer.

The recordings on Mixed by the Cecil Taylor Unit and the Roswell Rudd Sextet from 1961 have, as reissues go, been round the block a bit but still sound both challenging and compulsive. There's a Mingus-like energy to the playing and the three tracks by the Taylor Unit are especially lively, with saxophonist Jimmy Lyons blowing up a storm.

Archie Shepp remains almost as much of an enigma as Albert Ayler, although as an accredited intellectual his espousal of a bluesy primitivism is more faux than truly naive. The Way Ahead, from 1968, makes a suitable showcase for Shepp's fractured, painful-sounding tenor sax, and once again there's a real energy about the playing that helps keep the occasional atonalism at bay, although this is not one for the faint-hearted. Much the same can be said for the remaining two titles in the series, The Ear of the Beholder by saxophonist Dewey Redman (Joshua's dad), from 1973, and Three for Shepp by the trumPeter Marion Brown, from 1966. Both contain some lovely stuff, but be prepared to use the skip function.

A new re-release on the Verve Redial label offers insight into the New Thing, UK style. After years of waiting, the Jamaican saxophonist Joe Harriott's legendary "lost" proto free-jazz album, Free Form, has been made available and it's a knockout. Recorded in London in 1980 and originally released on the Jazzland label in 1961, it turns out to be as close to Johnny Dankworth as to Ornette Coleman (whose own "free jazz" developed along similar melodic lines to Harriott's at around the same time).

The "abstract" improvisations from Harriott on alto sax and shake Keane on trumpet usually occur against a fairly steady groove from the rhythm section or Pat Smythe on piano, Coleridge Goode on bass, and Phil Seamen on drums, and the music swings throughout. Despite the "free" elements, "Free Form" remains as emblematically English as any film noir thriller by Joseph Losey with a Dankworth score.

While Harriott (who died of cancer in 1974) was reinventing free jazz from a black Londoner's perspective, in Poland Krzysztof Komeda was developing his own version of the New Thing. Memorably celebrated last year by the wonderful album of his compositions by Tomasz Stanko, Litania, Komeda was a pianist, composer and bandleader of genius, whose music was moving increasingly into the abstract before his death in 1970. Volumes two, three and four in a series chronicling his collected works have recently become available as "enhanced" CDs (i.e. CD Roms) on the Polish label Power Bros, which is distributed by Harmonia Mundi. All are great, but volume four, which includes the music from his score to Roman Polanski's film Knife In The Water, is especially wonderful.

Finally, returning to the original theme of records that had to be made but to which you may wish to exercise caution before listening, Sony's release on the Columbia Legacy label of another "lost" album, the American reeds player Jimmy Guiffre's Free Fall, from 1962, represents something of a landmark, for this was the free jazz that time forgot. The final album in Giuffre's series of trio recordings with Paul Bley on piano and Steve Swallow on bass, it's the white underbelly to the conscious blackness of the New Thing.

Accordingly, the abstractions are Euro- rather than Afro-centric, soft instead of loud, and more cerebral than visceral. It's an astonishingly brave album and at times brilliant, almost beyond belief, but, like those great novels you once picked up and then put down again, serious dedication is required.

Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map