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Bernard Stollman, ESP-Disk’ Founder, Dies at 85

Eclectic label gave artists complete artistic control

Bernard Stollman of ESP-Disk' Records

Bernard Stollman, the founder of the ESP-Disk’ record label, died April 19 in Great Barrington, Mass. The cause was heart failure related to complications of prostate cancer. Stollman was 85.

ESP-Disk’ was founded in 1964 and from the start its policy-quite rare at the time-was to give all artists complete freedom to release their music as they saw fit. ESP-Disk’ released copious amounts of avant-garde jazz as well as folk music, underground rock and other genres of music not considered commercial. Among the artists who recorded for ESP-Disk’ were the Fugs, Pearls Before Swine, the Godz and the Holy Modal Rounders. In the jazz realm, the roster included recordings by Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Pharoah Sanders, Bud Powell, Sun Ra, Paul Bley, Henry Grimes, Gato Barbieri, Sonny Simmons, Steve Lacy and many more. In 2003, pianist Ellis Marsalis released a solo album on the label. Poet Allen Ginsberg, writer William S. Burroughs, LSD promoter Timothy Leary, pre-punk rocker Jayne County and mass murderer Charles Manson also feature within the label’s sizable discography, as do many artists who were, and remain, obscure.

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