ESP-DISK Returns to the Forefront of Modern Music

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ESP-DISK, the premiere American avant garde record label of the sixties -- one of the most turbulently creative periods in music history - has returned to reclaim its rich legacy with a series of releases.

ESP-DISK, the premiere American avant garde record label of the sixties -- one of the most turbulently creative periods in music history - has returned to reclaim its rich legacy with a series of releases that include reissues of groundbreaking out of print albums from its extensive catalogue, exciting previously unreleased live sessions from its vaults and new recordings that follow in its great tradition of presenting cutting edge modern musicians under the banner of "The artists alone decide …" The latest collection of compact discs from the company is comprised of re-releases (of) three important free jazz dates by Giuseppi Logan, Henry Grimes and Milford Graves from the label's glory days, digitally remastered and attractively packaged with reproductions of the records' striking original art work and reminisces (reminiscences)from label founder Bernard Stollman, along with the debut record plus a heretofore unheard early live session from the pioneering psychedelic folk rock band The Holy Modal Rounders, and a brand new cd from the potent contemporary power trio Totem>.

The earliest of this latest group of discs marked the first recorded appearance(of) the adventurous multi-instrumentalist/composer Giuseppi Logan. On 1964's Quartet (ESP 1007) Logan plays alto and tenor saxophones, Pakistani oboe, bass clarinet and flute with a band that features future avant garde giants, percussionist Milford Graves and pianist Don Pullen (in his recording debut), and Bill Evans bassist Eddie Gomez on a rare "outside" session. Logan, a mysterious figure(,) whose life was marked by erratic behavior(,) and whose death remains unconfirmed, believed that "the main part of music is beauty" and that "it has to be done in a very simple way to get closer to your Creator," has been frequently maligned for his apparent lack of virtuosity (as)s a player, but his ability to express his feelings about the world around him through his horns and compositions are clearly evident in this recording, particularly on the melodically engaging "Dance of Satan" and "Bleecker Partita." The performances of the accompanying trio are also impressive and foretell their futures as important innovators, particularly Graves(,) who shines on the opening "Tabla Suite" and "Dialogue."

Drum master Milford Graves appeared on more ESP recordings than any other musician, performing on sessions by Paul Bley, the New York Art Quartet, Lowell Davidson and Albert Ayler, in addition to those with Logan. Graves played congas and timbales before switching to the trap drum kit, bringing a truly unique internationalist flavor to the instrument(,) stemming from his serious study of African and Indian percussion traditions(,) combined with an uninhibited sense of rhythm that was a product of his absorption of developments by innovative drummers in the jazz world, particularly Elvin Jones. In his daring debut as a leader, Percussion Ensemble (ESP 1015), Graves courageously eschewed the inclusion of the instruments of European origin(,) to create new music outside of the traditional melodic and harmonic parameters of jazz(,) in a dialogue with fellow percussionist Sunny Morgan(,) utilizing a batterie of drums, gongs, shakers and bells that challenged contemporary notions of what could be called music.

The (re-emergence) of bassist Henry Grimes in 2002(,) after a three and half decade absence from the national jazz scene(,) is one of the 21st Century's greatest causes for optimism. Grimes was one of the very few successful mainstream jazz artists to wholeheartedly embrace the avant garde, moving from tenures in the fifties with Benny Goodman and Billy Taylor(,) to sixties sideman duties with Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor(,) before disappearing into obscurity for the next 35 years. The extraordinary bassist made his initial ESP appearance with pianist Burton Greene in December of 1965(,) and recorded his debut as a leader, The Call (ESP1026), for the label(,) two weeks later. For his first album fronting a group(.) Grimes assembled a pianoless trio in the Ayler tradition(,) featuring an obscure but capable drummer(,) Tom Price and the fearless clarinetist Perry Robinson, whose freewheeling improvisations and richly variegated tone prove to be an ideal voice for the bassist's refreshingly original compositions(,) and the perfect foil for the his impressive bowed bass playing. More than forty years following its release(,) this date is as rewarding for its inventive subtlety and unfettered swing today(,) as it was when it first appeared.

Although best known for its jazz catalogue, ESP made some important strides in the world of "pop music" with (delete noisy regarding Pearls, as they do not fit that description)noisy folk and rock inspired pre-punk groups like The Fugs, Pearls Before Swine, The Godz and The Holy Modal Rounders. The Rounders began as the not quite conventional folk duo of fiddler/banjoist Peter Stampfel and guitarist Steve Weber, but soon began breaking new ground with a drug fueled fusion of that tradition with a psychedelic lunacy more closely akin to the Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart. The group's 1967 release Indian War Whoop (ESP 1068), which also features organist/pianist Lee Crabtree and future famous playwright Sam Shepard on drums, remains one of the most bizarrely satisfying albums of the period. Comprised of two side (length)"suites" - "Jimmy and Crash Survey The Universe" and "The Second Hand Watch" - the record features old traditional songs like "Sweet Apple Cider" and "Cocaine Blues" (,) along with idiosyncratic originals by the (co-leaders)coleaders, blended together with soap opera like narration and silent movie organ interludes in a truly unique for the day fashion.

The recently discovered previously unreleased Live In 1965 (ESP 4045), recorded in front of an appreciative audience at the Detroit nightclub Chess Mate, documents The Holy Modal Rounders in their original acoustic folk duo configuration. The "anachronistic anarchist string band" comprised of Peter Stampfel on fiddle, banjo and vocals(,) and Steve Weber on guitar and voice - self-proclaimed "practitioners of the folk arts" -wend their way through a far more conventional, yet still somewhat zany set of Americana filled with classic works culled from their "gospel", Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. The set showcases the "ragged finesse" of Stampfel's old timey violin and Weber's masterful roots styled guitar finger picking with the pair's eccentric vocals on a program that includes their arrangements of public domain pieces like "Fishin' Blues," "Rum Mountain," "Black Eyed Suzy" and "Indian War Whoop," along with a hilarious version of Stampfel's "Random Canyon," a telling "My Mind Capsized" by Weber and a fresh reading of Johnny Cash's "Going To Memphis."

In the daring tradition of these records from the sixties, ESP releases an audacious new recording Solar Forge (ESP 4046) by the bold 21st Century band Totem>. The cooperative power trio of electric guitarist Bruce Eisenbeil, acoustic bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Andrew Drury represents the cutting edge of today's free improv avant garde, exploring what annotator Michael Anton Parker describes as the New Timbralism where there is a "merging into a central region of sounds detached from the conventional identity (of their) instruments, while still achieving the magical balance between shared momentum and independent pulse." Eisenbeil in particular is a creative force to be reckoned with(,) unleashing torrents of sounds from his guitar that reflect his experiences with masters such as Cecil Taylor and Milford Graves. Blancarte and Drury are fearless in their quest to rise to similar musical heights that at one time were thought to be sonically beyond the scope of their acoustic instrumentation. Each of the four collective improvisations explores a different brave new world of sound that points to some new place in the future.

The music recorded by ESP-Disk in the mid-sixties has had a profound influence on succeeding generations of improvisors. Its liberating effects have been deeply felt (,) not just in modern jazz, but also in the worlds of rock, classical and free improv, contributing greatly to the artistic freedom that true creativity craves and real art requires. The release of this new music for the ages insures that today's artists will have the opportunity to hear some of the defiant sounds that helped define the tumultuous times in which they were first made.

Street date: June 10th 2008


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