Fans of avant-garde free jazz will find a new collection of recordings to sift through with a new handful of ESP-DISK re-releases.
With typewriter fonts and vivid graphics, the digipak albums are a handheld version of the free jazz that ESP got its start recording. Albums with live performances and recordings from artists like Ornette Coleman (pictured), Henry Grimes, Don Cherry, Albert Ayler and Milford Graves comprise ESP’s catalog.
ESP’s diverse, engaging and underground collection stems from its beginnings-athe label opened in 1966 in New York City. Forty-five albums were recorded in the first 18 months of its existence.
But the label eventually ran out of funding in 1974, and the recordings were stored in safety deposit boxes until a German recording company made tapes of them in 1992.
Despite its lifespan, the company garnered a number of noteworthy live performances and full-length records. Since 2005, ESP titles have been available on CD for purchase at retailers, online or through digital music services.
Some notable titles that have resurfaced since the collection made its way back into the industry include:
Ornette Coleman-Town Hall 1962
Backing the 32-year-old Coleman on three tracks-“Doughnut,” “Sadness” and the 23-minute “The Ark”-are percussionist Charles Moffett and bassist David Izenzon. This concert proved to be the stuff of Coleman’s last recording until 1965, when the saxophonist came out of a temporary retirement for Chappaqua Suite.
The performance also includes the string quartet arrangement “Dedication to Poets and Writers,” what is now considered Coleman’s first chamber music using his improv theory of harmolodics. The quartet includes violinists Selwart Clarke and Nathan Goldstein, Julien Barber on viola and Kermit Moore on cello.
Henry Grimes Trio-The Call
ESP re-released the debut record of free jazz bassist Henry Grimes, recorded in 1965. The Call is the only recording available of Grimes as a bandleader before he went missing from the music scene for three decades, with drummer Tom Price and the Klezmer-infused clarinetist Perry Robinson.
Grimes played on more than 50 albums during the ’50s and ’60s, but was forced to sell his bass after being unable to pay for its repairs in the late ’60s. He resided in a Los Angeles hotel room for almost the next four decades-until the gift of a bass from William Parker.
Since then, Grimes has recorded an extensive discography and gone on a several tours.
Don Cherry-Live at Café Monmartre, 1966, Vol. 2
This follow-up to a 2007 ESP release includes six tracks from adventurous trumpeter Cherry and the rest of his quintet-songs include “Orfeu Negro,” “Suite for Albert Ayler” and “Complete Communion.”
The lineup includes Gato Barbieri on tenor saxophone, Karl Berger on vibes, Bo Stief on bass and drummer Aldo Romano. Stief was a fill-in for bassist Cameron Brown-local laws in Copenhagen at the time stated that one Danish musician had to be a member of the band.
The volume follows up the ESP release Live at Café Montmarte, 1966, Vol. 1 from last year, which was paired with a DVD sampler.
Other entries in the ESP catalog include a collection of rare Billie Holiday recordings, Steve Lacy, Milford Graves, Albert Ayler, the Paul Bley Trio and Giuseppe Logan.
A full list of available releases and information on online ordering is available at