The Black Arts Parade Toward the Black Arts Repertory Theater/School
125th Street, New York, 1965
LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) is on the right
On March 28, 1965, a concert benefiting the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School was held at New York’s Village Gate. Featuring John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra (he played but his music didn’t make the album) and Albert Ayler – artists described by Black Arts Music Coordinator Steve Young as “The Beautiful Warriors” and “magicians of the soul”– the performance was recorded and subsequently released on Impulse Records as The New Wave in Jazz.
This recording is significant for its brilliant “free jazz” performances, but also for Amiri Baraka’s (known as LeRoi Jones at the time) liner notes’ connection of music and politics. It is a reminder of the historic, turbulent times in which this music was created. The Selma to Montgomery marches took place in March, 1965. Malcolm X was assassinated in February. The war in Vietnam was dramatically escalating. And, jazz music was continuing to evolve, the most obvious example being the December, 1964 recording of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which was released in February, a mere ten months after Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly” rode the top of the Billboard charts.
In the midst of (and in reaction to) events like these came The Black Arts Movement. Founded in 1965 by Baraka, this movement called for, according to the African American History site BlackPost.org, “the creation of poetry, novels, visual arts, and theater to reflect pride in black history and culture” with the goal to “awaken black consciousness and achieve liberation.” Baraka and other “cultural nationalists” viewed jazz “as a distinctly black art form that was more politically appealing than soul, gospel, rhythm and blues, and other genres of black music.”
In Baraka’s poetic, politically exuberant album liner notes (Young contributes an essay as well), read how he describes the introduction of these artists to those unfamiliar with them as “the touch stone of the new world,” and how their work “transcends any emotional state (human realization) the white man knows.”
THE NEW WAVE IN JAZZ
New Black Music…a concert for the benefit of THE BLACK ARTS Repertory Theatre/School
Albert and Donald Ayler
I have been writing in many places about this new black music. I have made theories, sought histories, tried to explain. But the music itself is not about any of those things. What do our words have to do with flowers? A rose is not sweet because we explain it so. We cd say anything, and no rose wd answer.
TRANE is now a scope of feeling. A more fixed traveler, whose wildest onslaughts are gorgeous artifacts not even deaf people shd miss.
The sway of Nature Boy is lyric, when Trane sounds like what a search could sound like, we can understand that it is now not essentially a search for what to believe in. The Peace of the Cosmos is infinite motion.
ALBERT AYLER thinks that everything is everything. All the peace. All the motion. That he is a vessel from which energy is issued, issues. He things (or maybe he doesn’t think) that he is not even here. Not even here enough to be talked about as Albert, except we are biological egos (we Think). Separate. Sometimes unfelling of each other (thing) but Music joins us. Feeling. Art. What ever produces a common correspondence for existence.
Do you understand why this is a beautiful album?
Trane is a mature swan whose wing span was a whole new world. But he also showed us how to murder the popular song. To do away w/ weak Western forms. He is a beautiful philosopher. You would say to him, listening to his own projection of mysticism, “That’s the way it was told to me.”
Albert Ayler has heard Trane and Ornette Coleman and has still taken the music another way. People should be referred to Spirits, Bells, Spiritual Unity, My Name is Albert Ayler.
Albert Ayler is a master of staggering dimension, now, and it disturbs me to think that it might take a long time for a lot of people to find it out. (Except they knew it all the time, like that other shit you can’t explain.)
Trane is oriental (Eastern) on Nature Boy. A peace idiom, and time, placement of himself. When he speaks of God, you realize it is an Eastern God. Allah, perhaps.
Albert Ayler is the atomic age. Sun-Ra, who was supposed to be heard on this album, but was not because of the missionary’s vagaries, is the Space Age. These two ages are co-existent, but all are. Trane the age of bright (mystical) understanding. Archie Shepp, the age of cities, an urbane traveler with good senses (heart, ear).
This album will be for many people their initial hearing of most of these musicians. It shd be, for such ears, the touch stone of the new world. There is so much here.
But the album is also heavy evidence that something is really happening. Now. Has been happening, though generally ignored and/or reviled by middlebrow critics (usually white) who have no understanding of the emotional context this music comes to life in.
This is some of the music of contemporary black culture. The people who make this music are intellectuals or mystics or both. The black rhythm energy blues feeling (sensibility) is projected into the area of reflection, intentionally. As Expression…where each term is (equally) co-respondent.
Projection over sustained periods (more time given, and time proposes a history for expression, hence it becomes reflective projection.
Arbitrariness of Form (variety in nature)
Intention of performance as a Learning experience
These are categories which make reflection separate from expression; as Pure Expression and Pure Reflection (if such categories are more than theoretically existent. Expression does not set out to instruct (but it does anyway…if the objects of this mind-energy are so placed that they do receive). Reflection intends to change, is a formal learning situation. But getting hit in the head with a stick can do you as much good as meditating.
In order for the non-white world to assume control, it must transcend the technology that has enslaved it. But the expression and instinctive (natural) reflection that characterizes black art and culture, listen to these players, transcends any emotional slate (human realization) the white man knows. I sd elsewhere, “Feeling Predicts Intelligence”.
That is the spirit, the World Explanation, available in Black Lives, Culture, Art, speaks of a world more beautiful than the white man knows.
All that is to make clear what we are speaking of. And that the music you hear (?) is an invention of Black Lives. (No matter the alien “harmonies” of Ayler’s cellist presents…a kind of intrepid “Classicism” that wants to represent Europe as “hip”).
Grachan Moncur represents, along with Chas. Tolliver’s group, the cool aspect of the new generation. The post-milesian cool. The vibist, Bobby Hutcherson makes this stance thoughtful and challenging, as does, say, a drummer like Tony Williams or bassist Cecil McBee, who can stretch out even further.
These musicians change what is given and hopefully understood. What the normal feeling of adventure is. You thing hard-bop to cool soft bop. But there is a persistent will to be original that sheds these labels effortlessly. Some of the musicians in the Tolliver/Moncur groups have played together many times on those hip Blue-Note records with Jackie McLean or Andrew Hill or Wayne Shorter, &c. These are men (Jackie, the perennial strongman) who show you the music is changing before yr very ears.
These, and the others I mentioned before, names names, to conjure with, no one shd forget. Ok, speak of them as personalities if you want to. Sonny Murray is a ghost, listen to him thrash and moan with Holy Ghost. Listen to Louis Worrell, Charles Tyler, Don Ayler, closely because they are newer and might be telling you something you never bargained for. Listen to Trane, Ornette, Sun-Ra, Milford Graves, Tchikai, Brown. Listen to everybody beautiful. You on this record poets of The Black Nation.
New Black Music is this: Find the self, then kill it.
Director, The Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School
It’s not about notes anymore. It’s about feelings!
It is through the Black Man’s Music that the record of his Spiritual strivings are recorded for, from the time he was the first introduced into this country as a slave he was allowed little more Freedom than the freedom of his Music. Into his Music he poured all the energy that was elsewhere blocked, that elsewhere found no outlet through which his Spirit could express itself. But his Music was about more than that. It was about those unconscious cultural remnants he brought with him from the East, about the way he lived in the West, about where his Mind and Spirit wanted to be, where they had been and where they were going. As LeRoi Jones has written, the social and historical record of where he was at any given moment during his life in America (in terms of his feeling, his conscious and unconscious social and cultural allegiances) can be found in his Music; Blues, R&B, Gospel, Jazz.
The creators of the New Music have reached deep into their psyches, deep into their cultural origins to find a language of sound that conveys this sense of the world as feeling, as knowledge found through a logic of the emotions. From the earthy chants an calls of John Coltrane, the cry of Archie Shepp, the subtle melodies of Grachan Moncur and Charles Tolliver, to the satiric and frenzied with chasing of Albert Ayler comes an apocalyptic message from the heart of the world. A sense of someone or something walking around in the back room, waiting, for us, for you, for the rise and fall of civilizations. It is not too much to expect that these musicians as artists are also priests and prophets of things to come.
This recording presents a selection of some of the more significant voices in the New Music. Stylistically the approach of these musicians may differ yet they all seem to converge on that mystical hub around which the New Music revolves. Developmentally it provides a brief survey of the New Music from the more tonal chord structured music of John Coltrane to the “Free” Playing of Albert Ayler. The Music itself is taken from a benefit concert presented at the Village Gate in March 1965 by The Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School in co-operation with avant-garde musicians, Impulse Records and Art D’Lugoff owner of the Gate. The Black Arts, situated in Harlem, is a school and theatre designed as a place where the most visionary talents of black culture may find expression and where the community and especially the younger generation may come to learn and develop their own creative gifts under the instruction of accomplished artists.
Here then is the music of a new breed of musicians. We might call them “The Beautiful Warriors” or witch doctors and ju ju men…astroscientists, and magicians of the soul. When they play they perform an exorcism on the soul, the mind. If you’re not ready for the lands of Dada-Surreal a la Harlem, South Philly and dark Georgia nights after sundown, night-time Mau Mau attacks, shadowy figures out of flying saucers and music of the spheres, you might not survive the experience of listening to John Coltrane, Archie Shepp or Albert Ayler. These men are dangerous and someday they may murder, send the weaker hearts and corrupt consciences leaping through windows or screaming through their destroyed dream worlds. But this music, even though it speaks of horrible and frightening things, speaks at the same time so perfectly about the heart and to the heart. This music, at the same time it contains pain and anger and hope, contains a vision of a better world yet beyond the present and is some of the most beautiful ever to come out of men’s souls or out of that form of expression called Jazz.
STEVE YOUNG Music-Art Co-ordinator, The Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School
Recorded Live at the Village Gate – March 28, 1965
1. NATURE BOY
JOHN COLTRANE, tenor sax; JIMMY GARRISON, bass; ELVIN JONES, drums; McCOY TYNER, piano
2. HOLY GHOST
ALBERT AYLER, tenor sax; JOEL FREEDMAN, cello; LEWIS WORRELL, bass; DONALD AYLER, trumpet; SONNY MURRAY, drums
3. BLUE FREE
GRACHAN MONCUR, trombone; BILL HARRIS, drums; CECIL McBEE, bass; BOBBY HUTCHERSON, vibraphone
ARCHIE SHEPP, tenor sax; REGGIE JOHNSON, bass; VIRGIL JONES, trombone; MARION BROWN, alto sax; ROGER BLANK, drums; FRED PIRTLE, baritone sax; ASHLEY FENNELL, trumpet
2. BRILLIANT CORNERS
CHARLES TOLLIVER, trumpet; CECIL McBEE, bass; JAMES SPAULDING, alto sax; BILLY HIGGINS, drums; BOBBY HUTCHERSON, vibraphone
BOBBY HUTCHERSON appears through the courtesy of BLUE NOTE RECORDS
Produced by BOB THIELE
Engineer: RUDY VAN GELDER
Cover & Liner Photos: CHARLES STEWART
Liner Design: JOE LEBOW