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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.

New York Art Quartet: New York Art Quartet (1965)

New York Art Quartet: <i>New York Art Quartet</i> (1965)

John Tchicai (alto saxophone) and Roswell Rudd (trombone) made a compelling frontline for this group, which also included Lewis Worrell (bass) and ESP regular Milford Graves (drums). Compared to Albert Ayler’s rollicking originals, the New York Art Quartet played a more restrained version of free music, while retaining plenty of bite. Amiri Baraka (known at that time as LeRoi Jones) joins the group on one track, reading “Black Dada Nihilismus.”

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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