Ornette_coleman-town_hall_span3 Albert_ayler-new_york_span3 Don_cherry-live_at_cafe_montmarte_span3 Lester_young-live_at_birdland_span3 Billie_holiday--rare_live_recordings_span3
August 2008

Ornette Coleman Trio
Ornette Coleman Town Hall 1962
ESP-Disk
Albert Ayler
New York Eye and Ear Control
ESP-Disk
Don Cherry
Live at Café Montmartre 1966
ESP-Disk
Lester Young
Live at Birdland
ESP-Disk
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday’s Rare Live Recordings 1934-1959
ESP-Disk

The steady reissue of releases from Bernard Stollman’s ESP-Disk label (when will they get to their long-elusive Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano date?) is quite welcome. ESP was one of the top free-jazz/avant-garde labels during the second half of the 1960s, and some of their albums were both historic and, eventually, very valuable to collectors. Ornette Coleman Town Hall 1962 features the earliest recording of the Ornette Coleman Trio with bassist David Izenzon and drummer Charles Moffett. The set is highlighted by excellent performances from the trio (including a 23 1/2-minute version of “The Ark”) plus Coleman’s first classical work, “Dedication to Poets and Writers,” performed by a string quartet. New York Eye and Ear Control features very spirited playing from tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler and his sextet with trumpeter Don Cherry, altoist John Tchicai and trombonist Roswell Rudd. They perform two lengthy works recorded for the soundtrack of the film Walking Woman in 1964. Don Cherry’s previously unreleased Live at Café Montmartre 1966 Volume Two finds the relatively mellow-toned trumpeter teamed with the intense tenor solos of Gato Barbieri (during his most fiery period) and vibraphonist Karl Berger in a quintet. “Suite for Albert Ayler” is a highlight.

Also made available by ESP is a five-CD set, Billie Holiday’s Rare Live Recordings 1934-1959, and Lester Young’s Live at Birdland. Most of Lady Day’s most important live recordings are on the set, although the well-intentioned and lengthy liner notes include some unfortunate errors, including mixing up baritonist Harry Carney with Young. Live at Birdland includes three radio broadcasts featuring Young in 1953 and 1956 that find the tenor in excellent form. The music, formerly only available on collectors’ labels, also features trumpeters Jesse Drakes (not Jakes) and Don Ferrara and, on the first seven songs, pianist Horace Silver.

Originally published in August 2008
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