I bought the beautiful Revenant Albert Ayler box a week ago and amongst the goodies is a blisteringly articulate article by critic, ex-Beat, poet and all round true scholar Amiri Baraka that's so good its stopped me from getting any further into the rest (when's the last time you could say that?). In between writing about the pure sound and improving my vocabulary (amanuensis - thanks!), Baraka draws up a narrative in which to place his old friend. He writes about the East Village & Harlem, 60s Black ideology and big free jazz figures such as John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Cecil Taylor. The context Baraka provides is so rich you get news ears to listen to Ayler with, every note becomes fully charged and momentous, standing on top of a great jam of history and pushing it forward. Baraka quotes his 60s self, still called LeRoi Jones, excited and eager, desperate almost, to communicate what he hears happening - "Albert Ayler is the dynamite sound of the time".
It is, let's cut me short, great music writing; focussed and passionate and generous. Now I can listen more like a part of the crowd Baraka was in, and that's better than good, I can handle Ayler's sound like its alive and busy rubbing up against all that's going on around it. Leaves me wondering about the music surrounding me at the moment, about how to hear it, about what direction its going and why its being made. Baraka seems so good I bet he could have made pretty much anything sound like a dynamic piece of a big puzzle, but you know the ingredients he's got with Ayler are so good they'd look good for a mediocre writer, a third person after the fact ghostly writer. But today none of the music I listen to sounds much like its part of a revolution on first listen, I'm can't remember hearing much ideology or community in anything, noise or r'n'b or indie or garage but I think maybe I'm being forgetful, coming at it wrong. If musics going forward there has to be something pushing, and even if not there's always gonna be a history and a why to where its festering.
Alun here's that big book review berating the beraters, seems like big thoughts but slower than glass: http://www.tnr.com/story_print.html?id=f3839c75-3724-4154-adc4-e0638e30448a