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Free Five: A Choice Quintet of ESP-Disk’ Releases

Here are five albums from the ESP label that should be heard

Albums by Albert Ayler (Spiritual Unity, Spirits Rejoice) and Patty Waters (Sings, College Tour) are oft-referenced gatekeepers of the ESP-Disk’ aesthetic—you can read more about them in our feature story on the label. But ESP released more than 100 remarkable albums during its first run, with dozens more coming since its 21st-century resurrection. Here are just a few that should be heard, all of which are available either through ESP’s website or its Bandcamp page.

Byron Allen Trio: Byron Allen Trio (1965)

Byron Allen Trio: <i>Byron Allen Trio</i> (1965)

ESP’s back-cover blurb calls Allen “the spiritual descendant of Charlie Parker.” Yet titles like “Decision for the Cole-Man” reveal that the alto saxophonist was closer to Ornette in his writing, with a tone that had a bit more brawn to it. One of the most enigmatic ESP artists, Allen only released one other album, in 1979.

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The History of ESP-Disk’

Mike Shanley

Mike Shanley has been a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh and gladly welcomes any visitors to the city, most likely with a cup of coffee in one hand. Over the years, he has written for several alternative weekly papers and played bass guitar in several indie rock bands. He currently writes for the bi-weekly paper Pittsburgh Current and maintains a blog at