Archive for Free Jazz

R.I.P. Gary Peacock (1935-2020)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on September 8, 2020 by telescoper

I heard on Saturday via social media that the great bass player Gary Peacock had passed away on 4th September, only to see other posts claiming that the rumours of his death were a hoax. I was relieved about that but then it turns out that the hoax reports were themselves a hoax and Gary Peacock had indeed died. He was 85 years old.

Gary Peacock is probably best known for his work with the likes of Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans and Jack DeJohnette but as a tribute I thought I would post an example of his earlier work with Albert Ayler. I think the album Spiritual Unity with Gary Peacock on bass and Sonny Murray on drums is one of the highlights of 1960s free jazz.

This tune, the shorter of two versions on Spiritual Unity of an original composition by Albert Ayler called Ghosts, is a great example how he could make coherent what at first hearing sounds like disassociated bursts of sound. It involves remarkable improvised melodies based on short thematic lines designed to evoke unsophisticated  folk music or nursery tunes. It may sound primitive on the surface, but it’s very complex underneath and creating this extraordinary sound world clearly required great technical mastery from Ayler and his supporting musicians, especially Gary Peacock, who plays wonderfully on this track.

Rest in peace, Gary Peacock (1935-2020)

 

Hat and Beard

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on September 22, 2015 by telescoper

I haven’t posted much Jazz recently, and was reminded of this fact when I listened to the following track on my iPod yesterday while travelling back from Cardiff to Brighton.  Hat and Beard is an original composition by one of my favourite jazz artists, saxophonist Eric Dolphy and was written in honour of another of my favourite jazz artists, Thelonious Monk, who not only sported a splendid beard but also had a famously eccentric taste in headgear…

hat and beard

Anyway, Hat and Beard is taken from the pioneering free jazz album Out to Lunch. This album is without doubt one of the high points of 1960s avant-garde jazz, primarily because of Dolphy’s extraordinary playing (in this case on bass clarinet) but also because of the brilliance of the other musicians: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet; Bobby Hutcherson on vibes; Richard Davis on bass; and the superb Tony Williams on drums (who was only 18 when this track was recorded).

Out to Lunch!

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on December 19, 2011 by telescoper

Today’s the day for our infamous annual departmental Christmas Lunch, which last year started at 12.30 and carried on until 3.30 the following morning (at least for me and a few other diehards). I thought I’d mark the occasion this year with an appropriate piece of music featuring one of my favourite jazz artists, saxophonist Eric Dolphy. This is the title track of the pioneering free jazz album Out to Lunch. This album is without doubt one of the high points of 1960s avant-garde jazz, primarily because of Dolphy’s extraordinary playing but also because of the brilliance of the other musicians. It’s a virtuoso performance all round, and it’s especially hard to believe that the superb drummer Tony Williams was only 18 when this track was recorded!

Unfortunately the original track is a bit too long for Youtube so this is in two parts; you’ll have to click through for the second bit.

Anyway, this would definitely be one of my Desert Island Discs and it probably also serves as an accurate musical illustration of the state my brain will be in later today. Enjoy!

Ghosts

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on October 23, 2011 by telescoper

I’ve been meaning to post this pioneering piece of music for some time but never seemed to get around to it until a comment yesterday reminded me that I’m probably not posting enough about Jazz these days. Albert Ayler was one of the true originals of the free jazz movement of the 1960s, and I think the album Spiritual Unity he made with Gary Peacock on bass and Sonny Murray on drums is the first record on which his radical ideas came fully to fruition, which is why I’ve chosen to post a track from it. His saxophone style was totally unique, with a rough broad vibrato and searing hard-edged tone contrasting dramatically with a superb command of the upper register and exhilirating speed of execution. His articulation is blurred in order to give the saxophone a more personal timbre, with inflections similar to a human voice, and he’s able to accomplish dramatic changes in mood, from a wild passion bordering on violence, to a deep sense of pathos or nostalgia. As is the case with other highly independent jazz musicians, such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, you only have to hear one note to know immediately who’s playing.

This tune, the shorter of two versions on Spiritual Unity of an original composition by Albert Ayler called Ghosts, is a great example how he could make coherent what at first hearing sounds like disassociated bursts of sound. It involves remarkable improvised melodies based on short thematic lines designed to evoke unsophisticated  folk music or nursery tunes. It may sound primitive on the surface, but it’s very complex underneath and creating this extraordinary sound world clearly required great technical mastery from Ayler and his supporting musicians, especially Gary Peacock, who plays wonderfully on this track.

Yet for all its brilliance, this record also hints at the dark clouds that were never far from Ayler’s horizon. Although critically acclaimed, his music never found favour with the public. He battled depression throughout the late 60s and, in 1970, at the age of only 34, he took his own life by jumping off a ferry into New York’s  East River.