If saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler, icons of bust-loose and beautiful improvisation, were alive today . . .they’d be pleased by and maybe attending the festival and concert in their honor this week in Montclair, NJ and Brooklyn. Dolphy died of undiagnosed diabetes in 1964, and Ayler either jumped or was pushed into the East River in 1970, however their music is imbued with immortal spirit.
Eric Dolphy: The Freedom of Sound Festival is an extraordinary convening of musical survivors and admirers of the flutist/bass clarinetist/alto saxophonist who enriched the explorations of Coltrane, Mingus and Ornette Coleman among other free thinkers of the early 1960s, and led several of his own brilliant sessions, such as JazzBeyondJazz favorite Out to Lunch. The fest, featuring previously unheard Dolphy compositions and unique collaborations runs Friday 5/30 and Saturday 5/31 at Montclair State
University’s Memorial Auditorium — a quick NJTransit ride from Manhattan (and I hear a bus goes there too).
Sunday 6/2 Dissident Arts is staging a Tribute to Eye and Ear Control at The Firehouse Space in Brooklyn, recalling one of most unbridled and fast-flowing of ’60s blowouts, instigated by Ayler with heroic personnel (see album cover) as a soundtrack for Canadian filmmaker Michael Snow.
Coming on the heels of the planet’s acknowledgement of Sun Ra’s 100th year and Miles Davis’ 88th birthday, the Dolphy and Ayler programs as well suggest there’s desire in the air (at least in some spheres) for red-blooded, high energy, deeply committed, subversively non-pop and indeed transcendent (mostly) acoustic improvisation fed by urban modernism, rooted in folk song, standards, sounds of nature and the blues. Yes, that’s what I like.
The Freedom Sound Festival, produced by the non-profit Seed Artists (founded by drummer Pheeroan ak Laff and his wife Luz Marina Bueno) has among its scheduled highlights on Friday night a drum duet of ak Laff and Andrew Cyrille, reedist Henry Threadgill with pianist David Virelles, a solo appearance by bassist Richard Davis, trumpeter Russ Johnson’s Still Out to Lunch with Roy Nathanson on alto, andpianist Diane Moser’s Quintet with reedist Marty Ehrlich, who will also be in a bass clarinet quintet. Saturday begins with a symposium starring Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, author and academician Gunther Schuller (a major Dolphy proponent) and flutist-composer James Newton, proceeds to the trio Tarbaby with guest artist Oliver Lake, drummer ak Laff and electric guitarist Vernon Reid plus guests, and concluding all-stars. The Freedom of Sound fest has been raising funds as an Indiegogo campaign; contributions are promised to the Jazz Foundation of America (JFA) and the Montclair Academy of Dance and Laboratory of Music (MADLOM).
The NYE&EC celebrants include The Veterans of Free (Daniel Carter, saxes and trumpet; Karl Berger, vibes and piano; Warren Smith, drums and percussion; multi-reedist Will Connell, vocalist Ingrid Sertso and bassist Ken Filiano); poet Steve Dalachinsky, sax and flutist Ras Moshe’s Unit and trumpeter/alto clarinetist Matt Lavelle’s 12 Houses Orchestra, a 14-tet. Vibraphonist and percussionist John Pietaro has more than a little to do with setting up this concert, which starts at 3:30 pm and will run into the Game of Thrones hour. Catch the dragons later –monstrous music to hear.