Attn time-travelers: Dolphy & Ayler this week in NY/NJ


photo (c) by Chuck Stewart

If saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler, icons of bust-loose and beautiful ayler faces leftimprovisation, 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 LunchThe 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, ny e&einstigated 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.

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  1. Alex Lemski says

    Howard, just finished listening to your roundtable web-cam discussion of “Where will we hear Jazz?” Important issues at stake. What disturbed me hearing albeit at least an honest remark coming from the horses mouth if you will, was Adrian Ellis’ insistence towards the end that the burden of audience development must be on the backs of non-profits! You know, I’ve contended for decades that there is no real compatibility between Jazz and the commercial (capitalistic) market these days; a “buyer” (aka musicians, listeners) beware” declaration if there ever was one!. And when a presenter can’t bring in the audiences, well, it’s often because there’s no money (or media) thanks to commercialism dominance. So the art feeds their bottom line, how generous of us – I used to direct a very grassroots non-profit.

    Any hows, on to the better news though I wasn’t be there, for example, the Dolphy Tribute in Montclair, hoping that it was well played, received & decently attended, new listeners, too.. I have to ask myself then, why did I move from Morristown to Boston?! Even spent a short while on Oliver’s Passin’ Thru board.

    Good music to ya!


    • says

      Hi Alex, thanks for your notes — Adrian calls it as he sees it — and indeed, the non-profits, especially grass roots organizations such as Jazz St. Louis, JazzBoston, the Jazz Institute of Chicago are taking it upon themselves to do audience development, as CLEARLY there is a very limited recording industry that gives a hoot, and that coterie is underfinanced/understaffed, too. The Jazz Journalists Assoc. looks to media as the sine qua non of audience development, because how are we going to appeal to people who are not already in the audience if not using public media (social or otherwise). However, funding for media projects for arts’ audience development is almost nil, and what there is (for instance, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation giving an extra $25k to its Performing Artists (who receive $225k for themselves) for audience development activities does so under the as yet untested assumption that the artists know how best to spend that $$ or how to grow audiences for themselves (and maybe others). Well, we persevere. For a while longer, at least. . .And grass roots orgs put together good programs such as the Dolphy Freedom of Sound Fest. Thanks to them for that (can’t imagine any for-profit entity doing it).