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How fortuitous that I have a complete set of Coda Magazine back issues to use as a recollective almanac, able to dig back into smudged memories, clarify half-remembered musical truths. Here it is on page 17 of the August/September 1965 Issue, five photographs under the boastful heading: Photographic Essay. A one page “review”, pictures taken on my first visit to the Newport Jazz Festival. Under each photograph a cut line: Les McCann – “Plenty plenty soul”; Thelonious Monk – “Time Magazine’s 1964 NEW STAR”; John Coltrane – “Not one of my favourite things”; Archie Shepp – “Resting from the search”, and at the top of the page, the Jazz Composers Guild Orchestra – “Confusing Intensity”.


This journey to Newport, my first time into the heartland of jazz music, is travelled at high speeds on interstate freeways, zooming through the countryside on straight-as-a-die six lane concrete ribbons in a wallowing power-assisted fully automatic cruiser. The only pause to cross the border of a country in stasis, whose youth are rebelling against the conservative social norms, demonstrating against the Vietnam war, proclaiming civil rights and changing the shape of western culture forever. The prophet Zimmerman, who will unveil his new electric band at the Newport Folk Festival that year, is telling the writers, critics, senators, congressmen, mothers and fathers that they were only pawns in their game and it’s all over now, out there on desolation row. That the times are changing.

Over that weekend I will witness an important moment in American history, an anniversary of 1776 when they had declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. This is celebrated in a loud and raucous manner with fireworks displays accompanied by patriotic songs, God blessing themselves with a fervour previously experienced at football matches and race riots in Britain; picnics and barbecues, parades and baseball games, red, white and blue balloons, buntings and streamers the colours of the Stars and Stripes, a 13-gun salute and the Newport Jazz Festival.

The festival grounds are a converted sports arena, modified for the occasion, row upon row of wooden folding-chairs with seating to accommodate 12,000 set out before a large impressive stage. Directly in front “the pit”, where musicians and the invited press corps congregate. Around the perimeter of the field blue and white striped open-sided tents acting as miniature beer halls flogging tasteless concoctions, hotdog and hamburger stands, the undrinkable sugar saturated cola in abundance. All American fare.

Our accommodation is delightfully in tune with the legend of Newport. Two rooms at a Cliff Walk manor, where through the louvre shuttered windows of this gaily painted wind-worn old New England clapboard Colonial house is a manicured lawn with a gazebo and white painted wicker lawn furniture, perfect for lolling about over breakfast as the morning sun creeps over the edge of the cliffs. Anyone for a game of croquet or boules? The faint rumble of the ocean is always there, and out across Rhode Island Sound yachts are preparing for the most prestigious regatta in the sport of sailing: America’s Cup. A lightweight linen suit, set off by a white silk shirt with a embroidered club cravat at the throat and a Panama hat would be appropriate garb for the setting. Images imagined from reading F. Scott Fitzgerald, or perhaps from too many viewings of Bert Stern’s “Jazz on a Summer’s Day”.

It’s the Friday afternoon program that will be the most enlightening – “The New Thing in Jazz: A Study of the Avant-Garde”, which is incongruously moderated by Lennie the Feather, a perpetrator of fatuous clichéd syndicated journalism, and a leading member of the American jazz Mafia. The program lists The Jazz Composers Orchestra; Archie Shepp Quartet; Paul Bley Trio; Cecil Taylor Quintet. Up in that order.

Among my modest collection of reference books is Burt Goldblatt’s illustrated history of the Newport Jazz Festival, spanning the years 1956 to 1973, a cornucopia of information, the text accompanying his marvellous photographs allowing cross-reference, a reminder that my introduction to the three key-members of the New York Art Quartet is not through the two recordings on ESP and Fontana, but live, there on that sunny Friday afternoon, July 2nd, 1965 in Newport Rhode Island.

My photograph in Coda Magazine is a scant 3” x 5”, the members of the orchestra difficult to identify. Thanks to Burt’s book I can now impart that the orchestra was under the direction of trumpeter Mike Mantler and pianist Carla Bley; Steve Swallow the bassist, Charles Davis and Ken McIntyre saxophonists, but most importantly my first encounter with alto saxophonist John Tchicai, trombonist Roswell Rudd and percussionist Milford Graves.


It never ceases to amaze me, the celerity with which reviews appear; the very day of release, hipster expounders hurrying urgently to be the proclaimer, first out there to tell their version. Now, with the web, before the vinyl has solidified. Impossible though to have absorbed the music enough to form an intelligent opinion. Me, I’m not in a hurry, plenty of time to relish the wonder of this box-set of fifty-year old musical history.

Five long-playing recordings and a 156-page cloth-bound book packaged in a custom birch wood box with enough music to keep me occupied for most of the summer. Today, the beginning of this written story – another Friday, July 12th 2013 – almost a half century passed, and it’s my turn to cook supper, a silent occupation perfect to accompany the music of the five records. The chosen meal is to be one of my personalized quiches. Our garden, friends and a local fisherman supplying the ingredients.

The knack of making a pastry shell has always eluded me, fortunately Essjay has mastered this art, preparing half-dozen shells stored away in the freezer.

LP #1 starts appropriately with Roswell Rudd’s composition “Banging on the White House Door”, an alternate take of the long out-of-print Fontana recording [http://rantanddawdle.ca/2013/06/28/dutch-masterpieces-•-fontana-recordings-from-the-1960s/]. Consider the time frame, July 16th 1965, just two weeks after my initial encounter, and two weeks before Lyndon Bayne Johnson will order the number of troops sent to the unwinable Vietnam war increased from 75,000 to 125,000 and doubling the number of draftees per month to 35,000.

Both the frozen pastry shell and nettles – which have been picked in the spring when they are young and tender, blanched and frozen for future use – are removed from the freezer and left to thaw naturally.

The chopped-up onions, red peppers (bell and hot chili), garlic and grated carrots are sautéed in butter, then left to cool. The white of one of the three eggs separated, brushed with a Chinese calligraphy brush – a gift from a departed friend – coating the pastry shell, preventing the pastry from becoming soggy. A half-cup of diced strong-flavoured Gort’s Gouda cheese from Shuswap Country in the Southern Interior is layered over the bottom of the pie shell. Collectively, the filling, apart from the above mentioned vegetables will include smoked wild albacore tuna, purchased down at the Ford Cove dock from the captain of the Gladiator.

The custard, milk, sometimes with a tablespoon or more of yogurt, is mixed with the two remaining eggs and the left-over yolk in a 500ml jug, ready to be poured over the savory filling in the prepared shell. The surface, once settled, sprinkled with shredded Asiago cheese. All baked in a preheated 400° oven until the custard is firm. About forty minutes.

Throughout the day a general impression has saturated my consciousness, the details yet to come, the project at hand to be clarified with headphones and long walks about the close by countryside. I’ve copied the complete takes into my iPad, leaving the handful of breakdowns, warm-ups, false starts, incomplete and unfinished takes at home.

The word cocoon filters through as the search for a description begins. Being enveloped in a protective, comforting way, retreating into a private world, seems to suit my intention.


Walk #1: Summer has arrived, scorching days demanding a certain style of attire, in my case completely covering my fragile English skin, the glowing orb never a friend. The walk up through the forest safe enough. My usual hat, a Panama of Ecuadorian origin, is not suitable, my Sennheiser headphones unable to successfully encircle it, so a baseball hat with an eagle insignia – a prize for having drawn the correct ticket number at the pub one evening last winter, will serve as a replacement. My Gap shoulder bag, designed for treks, has numerous compartments to house the iPad, note book and print-outs of the sessionography, and end pockets for water bottles.

I’ve waited until early evening, hoping for cool air to traverse the Lambert Channel. Walking up the nebulous pathway through the forest to the cliff edge, a journey regularly travelled, takes on a new aura, the natural sound of the wind rippling the trees, bird calls, the rustling of unknown creatures all replaced by the music of the New York Art Quartet, leaving only the temporal physicality of light flickering through the leaves, a fallen log, moss covered rocks that have tumbled down the mountainside, a crudely painted warning sign: Caution – Steep Cliffs Ahead. Illustrated with cartoon character plunging to his death.

Looking out from my vantage point at the top of the cliff, across the water, the southerly dock of the ferry is just visible, the setting sun transforming the bay into a blazing, shimmering fire. As the glowing orb settles toward the horizon a narrow band of golden light streaks across the water’s surface catching in its rays the ferry as it navigates the channel between Hornby and Denman Islands. I have a favourite seat just away from the edge of the cliff in the shade of a stand of arbutus trees, where I sit watching the cormorants clumsily floating in the currents along the cliff face as they begin to settle for the night into their nests hidden among the nooks and crannies, black cut-out pterodactyl patterns against the failing light. Listening to the music.

Five pieces, just shy of an hour in total, are from a double-bill that also featured the Sun Ra Arkestra on the concluding night of the Four Days in December concert series taking place on New Years Eve 1964 at Judson Hall in New York City. The bassist is Don Moore, one of five that will occupy this chair over the course of these recordings. And now, unlike the first track recorded in Rudy Van Gelder’s studio, I’m hearing a live concert, a real event, ghosting myself into the audience of Judson Hall. I was there once, six months later in the summer of 1965, excited to be down there in Greenwich Village, hearing the beauty of Sheila Jordan’s voice, impressed by the airy saxophone of Charles Lloyd, misunderstanding Jimmy Guiffre – precipitating a review of grandiloquent hogwash (…emitting strange sounds seemingly in no sequence or pattern.), insulting Don Heckman’s pianist (…Steve Kuhn throwing money into the piano [making wishes?]). Admission $1.00. (I don’t doubt their musical ability, just their intentions). A too late disclaimer.

The five pieces vary from a brief outing on “Asprohaliko”– a palaeolithic site in Northern Greece; a ten minute adventure aptly named “Old Stuff”, to a lengthy version of “Rosmosis”, all three compositions penned by Roswell Rudd. John Tchicai provides his composition “No. 6”, and “Uh-Oh” is a collective composition allowing the listener into the magic world of bluesy, freely improvised, interaction.

And what do we hear? Not just tunes and solos. It’s too early to understand what difference the various bassists will contribute, how much the trio will be altered, directed toward other zones, but what is apparent is an intimate language, Milford Graves’ contribution being of special importance. I am reticent to call him a drummer, that would be an inadequate description. Looking back into the history of the sixties music we hear him everywhere, providing rhythmic liberation for many of its leading proponents, creating a percussive language, unlocking the stifling form of time signature, allowing the melodists opportunities to follow their imagination, stimulating the New York Art Quartet with a flexible foundation and surround. A magical dancing delight.


All of my thinking life, likely from my early teens on, radio has been the conduit to important information. In postwar England there was little access to music, the wind-up gramophone in the corner of the parlour, the scant collection of 78rpm recordings gathering dust. My real salvation was the radio, a form of entertainment that cost nothing. Through this medium I discovered the view of the world as it was being presented by Spike Milligan, his astute observations constantly stimulating my thinking, the bizarre content of his writing opening up my gradually developing character. From his brilliant, if somewhat erratic imagination, along with scripts for the Goon shows, came his love of jazz which was featured as an integral part of the programs. This love was reflected in the shows by the music of the Ray Ellington quartet. The show ran from 1951 until 1960. In this same period – 1956 through 1961 – our clique of jazz hipsters discovered the legendary Prestige recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet with John Coltrane.

Just four years later on January 17, 1965 the New York Art Quartet would broadcast live at the WBAI Studios in New York City. Considering their history it’s not surprising that this would be the station joining their revolution. Once referred to by the New York Times Magazine as “an anarchist’s circus”.

Walk #2: The plan was to repeat the original walk, but the temperature has risen beyond comfort, so I settle in a shady hollow and check out the broadcast. This time Eddie Gomez is the bassist, the change in the quartet noticeable, his fleet articulate fingering meshing with Milford Graves percussion multiplying the rhythmic gambol. He’s destined, even at this young age, for another life in music.

The brief program, not forty minutes in length, once again has “Old Stuff” a suitable title with Roswell stretching out, harkening back to those tailgating days of J.C. Higginbottom and Kid Ory; “No. 6” hurrying to the conclusion, plus a rare reading of a jazz standard – Charlie Parker’s “Now’s The Time”. Is this prophetic, this nod to Bird, a homage? Roswell Rudd and John Tchicai’s humour has the melody coming together in fragments, the composition flirted with until their exchanges crystallize into personal narrative, John weaving among the blats and chortles of Roswell’s trombone. Ted Joans chalking the walls of the Village with the slogan “Bird Lives” pops into my mind.

“Ballad Theta” by Tchicai is just that, a ballad, suggesting that I’ve forgotten the lyrics, Mister Rudd’s gruff trombone as sentimental as it gets, introducing us to the first of Amiri Baraka’s three poems…

…Western Front
My intentions are colors, I’m filled with
color, every tint you think of lends to mine
my mind is full of color, hard muscle streaks,
or soft glow round exactness registration. All earth
heaven things, hell things, in colors circulate
a wild blood train, turns litmus like a bible coat,
describes music falling flying, my criminal darkness,
static fingers, call it art, high above the streetwalkers
high above real meaning, floaters prop themselves in pillows
letting soft blondes lick them into serenity. Poems are made
by fools like Allen Ginsberg, who loves God, and went to India
only to see God, finding him walking barefoot in the street,
blood sickness and hysteria, yet only God touched this poet,
who has no use for the world. But only God, who is sole dope
manufacturer of the universe, and is responsible for ease
and logic. Only God, the baldhead faggot, is clearly responsible,
not, for definite, no cats we know.

1960, live radio, again remembering my youth. Me and a girl friend in London, for budgetary reasons share flats with friends and are rarely alone together. We manage to spend the occasional weekend at a sympathetic cousin’s house, huddling together in a double-bed, a portable radio tucked under the pillow to dampen the sound, to not disturb the cousins, listening to the late night broadcasts on the Voice of America introduced by the sonorous baritone cadences of Willis Connover. The music is performed by a King or a Count, an Earl and a Duke, even a President – musical royalty. Connover’s favourite piece of music was “Chelsea Bridge” featuring the Duke Ellington Orchestra with Ben Webster’s tenor saxophone soaring. American jazz nightly, reinforcing my love of Miles, Monk, Milt and Diz.


Jazz in the Garden
at The Museum of Modern Art.
Thursday, July 15, 1965

The Jazz Composers Orchestra, an eight-piece ensemble which includes the New York Art Quartet, will play the fifth Jazz in the Garden concert at The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, tonight (Thursday, July 15) at 8:00 p.m. The avant- garde group, an innovator of ultra-modern jazz known as “the new thing,” is directed by trumpeter Mike Mantler and pianist Carla Bley. Miss Bley’s brother, pianist Paul Bley, is featured soloist.

The history of jazz thrives on repeated misinformation, this press release confirmation. Paul and Carla Bley must have been surprised to find they were siblings. And that’s not the only surprise, the Jazz Composers orchestra, an adventurous oddity among the chosen weekly program, tucked between Muddy Waters’ Blues Band and the Pee Wee Russell Quintet, a rare public exposure. Out among the general art loving public.

The New York Art Quartet feature is a scarce 16 minutes and 22 seconds, hardly enough time to settle into the four compositions, all brief readings, opening with Tchicai’s “Quintus T” floating along on Mister Graves energetic swirls; again Charlie Parker – this time “Mohawk” with the horns interweaving in competition to a far away car horn; a ballady “Sweet V”, dramatic and theatrical, and finally another version of “Banging on the White House Door” with Mister Rudd featured on euphonium. The bassist is Reggie Workman. Enthusiastic applause with muffled shouts for more.


Walk #3: Alone again today, wandering the road paralleling the Lambert Channel’s cliff edge. To a beach. The earphones are shutting out the distraction of passing vehicles laden with bicycles, kayaks, beer coolers and children. The season of tourists. Down a lane to the old Savoie ferry dock at Phipps Point to the deserted beach. On the edge of the crumbling concrete ramp stands a chair, a fake Louis XIV, a tatty structure of faded velvet and peeling gold lacquer incongruously plonked in such bucolic topography, beckoning. All along the beach the logs brought up by the tides offer more comfortable seating. For an hour or so I can settle in, uninterrupted, with my iPad and note book, withdraw, fantasize myself into the sixties New York loft scene. The lofts in question are occupied by Michael Snow – a Canadian artist and musician, and Marzette Watts the saxophonist and sound engineer.

It seems as though I’m never wholly involved with the music, just peripheral, on the edge observing, commenting, promoting. My sojourns into performance a necessary investigation. Until my own bands came along it’s the Artists’ Jazz Band (AJB) and our collective the Canadian Creative Music Collective (CCMC) that allows me to act out my musical fantasies, mimic my heroes of American jazz. Michael Snow, playing trumpet, is in both of these groups, a decade after his “New York Eye and Ear Control”. The AJB gathering weekly in the loft of fellow artist and drummer Gordon Rayner. Years of wonderful open exciting music. Friends partying.

Michael Snow’s loft is where the incomplete pieces – previously mentioned – live, leaving just three finished pieces, though one, a Tchicai piece titled “Nettus 11” manages to hang together for 10:31 minutes, the ending, after an extended Milford Graves solo unable to return to the theme. A rehearsal perhaps! For what? The bassist is Bob Cunningham who in later life would become famous for his rock-solid walking lines. There’s a complete take of “Sweet V”, loose and gangly, and two takes of Tchicai’s “For Eric: Memento Mori”. Memento mori translated from Latin means “remember that you will die”, an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. Is this slow haunting melody a tribute to Eric Dolphy who had died the previous summer in Berlin?

One of my earliest attempts at capturing the sound of surprise with words – “New York Jazz Happenings” – appeared in the October 1965 issue of Coda. A highlight of my visit had been Slugs Saloon down there in the lower east side (242 East 3rd Street between avenues B and C), a bohemian paradise liberally sprinkled with sawdust, out of work musicians and disciples of the burgeoning avant garde.

A modified extract from Imagine The Sound #5 • The Book
My hostess and guide was Dutch jazz fan Elisabeth Van Der Mei. Elisabeth had moved from Holland in 1964 and worked for ESP Records as assistant to Bernard Stollman. I stayed at her apartment on Lafayette Street in the east village. Downstairs was the Astor Playhouse. In this theatre was to be my first intimate contact with the music of Albert Ayler. A small theatre and all of us just a short distance from the stage. Albert Ayler, Don Ayler, Charles Tyler, Joel Friedman, Ronald (Shannon) Jackson. The volatile energy of the rhythm mass pouring over us. Sanctified at last. The next day we visited ESP Records, which I recall as the upper floor of a garage, where even the lathes for cutting the lacquers were in the same room as the recording equipment.

Many years later it became apparent that the spirituality of Albert Ayler would reach out and influence John Coltrane. On my next visit to New York (February 1966) I spent a large amount of time with Albert, heard him in concert with John Coltrane at the Lincoln Center’s Philharmonic Hall, at the Dom with the Tony Scott quartet, and we hung out at Slugs. I saw Albert only a few times after that; an occasion in England, filmed for the BBC television show “Jazz 625” at the London School of Economics, and then at the Newport Jazz Festival where he was the conclusion of a Friday night performance that had included Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. And there was Albert with his two-tone black and white beard, dancing, always moving. I still see him from that night, clear in my mind, even the three piece white suit and two-tone shoes.


At last, after six weeks of drought, the rains have come, so today I shall sit at the table on the covered deck and dematerialise, sit among the visitors, mingle. There is no intention of being guilty of mythification, but lofts, that I’ve not much experienced since those heady days with the Artists Jazz Band, hold a special place in the history of art. Especially in New York City.

As this story has unfolded it’s clear that I was captured by this music nearly half-century past, that this set  – “call it art” – is a casting back, sparking memories of exciting discoveries, and there is no better way to conclude this fabulous journey than to be at the party taking place in the loft of saxophonist Marzette Watts on October 31st, 1964.

I confess, though it’s rather late in the story, to having a preference for what I’ve always thought of as the “real” quartet, with bassist Lewis Worrell completing the picture. This, the earliest recording of “call it art”, saved for last, is a month prior to the ESP recording that initially drew me into their inescapable web.

J.C Moses, who had been the drummer earlier with the New York Contemporary Five, is here on two of the compositions, changing the shape of the quartet with a somewhat straight-ahead rhythm concept. First a long improvisation, again titled “Uh-Oh” into which creeps Ornette’s “Sound By-Yor” – a tune I’m not familiar with, and uh-oh here comes Ornette again, “O.C.” swinging out, with Roswell at his most brilliant self. There are odd moments from trumpeter Alan Shorter, but even odder is Milford’s astounding bongo playing and singing, interjecting with his African magician’s juju, upping the rhythmic excitement. The three pieces of the “real” quartet are all composed by John Tchicai: “For Eric: Memento Mori”, “Ballad Theta”, and “No. 6”.

There’s not much more for me to say. It must be obvious that I’m thrilled to have been allowed into this intimate chronicle of such a wonderful group of performers transporting me to fond memories. The birch wood box sits on my study table inviting time travel, just as Sydney Newman’s blue police box enabled Doctor Who back then in 1963.

It’s the music I’m interested in, so I’ve not read the beautiful 156-page cloth-bound book packaged in it’s custom made box, just gawked at the collection of marvellous photographs, advertisements, taped-together yellowing lead sheets and referenced the sessionography. Researched my opinions alone, personal reflections and recollections, wallowed in reminiscence. So the book will be an added attraction, another pleasure for some other time.

New York Art Quartet – call it art – http://www.triplepointrecords.com
The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader – ISBN 1-56025-238-3
The Jazz Discography – http://www.lordisco.com
Newport Jazz Festival, The Illustrated History by Burt Goldblatt – Dial Press, ISBN 0-8037-6440-5
New York Eye & Ear Control – http://www.espdisk.com/official/catalog/1016.html
Imagine The Sound #5 • The Book (Nightwood Editions (Jan 1 1985) • ISBN-10: 0889711038 • ISBN-13: 978-0889711037
Gort’s Gouda – http://www.gortsgoudacheese.bc.ca
Gladiator Wild Seafood – http://www.gladiatorwildseafood.ca

Photographic Credits:
Jazz Composers Guild Orchestra – william e. (bill) smith
call it art illustration – Buro Svenja
Milford Graves – william e. (bill) smith
John Tchicai – william e. (bill) smith
Roswell Rudd – william e. (bill) smith
John Tchicai with the author – Barry Thomson