Brian Priestley on criticism of free jazz

Debutgh1.jpgI was listening to Albert Ayler’s wonderful album Ghosts (aka Vibrations) recently, and decided to look up some reviews of the record. Brian Priestley didn’t like the record very much, but he did have this interesting bit to say at the end about criticism of “free jazz.”

(From Jazz Monthly No. 178 – December, 1969 (?)) – UK

As Charles Fox said recently, in so many words, the only trouble with most of the “new thing” is having to listen to it. I never found any problem in accepting the idea of “free jazz” intellectually, and I find most of the arguments used against it to be fallacious. To describe it as “anti-jazz” is definitely out, if only because the term “anti-novel” was employed ’way back in 1839! To say that “They don’t know what they’re doing” is illogical, because the statement merely proves that the listener doesn’t know what they’re doing. And it’s no use saying, for instance, that Albert Ayler’s tone is patently ridiculous, because so is all jazz to the genuine outsider; all the most moving noises which we treasure mean nothing to millions of people. Even with the most basic vocal music, the sound of Bessie Smith bellowing is as incomprehensible and potentially embarrassing to the uninitiated as the sound of Edith Piaf emoting. In fact, however much some jazz writers may attempt to deny or ignore the fact, the only way in which appreciation of any kind of music can be cultivated or deepened is by the realization, whether conscious or unconscious, of the musical laws by which it is governed. I just wish someone would tell me what laws govern Ayler’s music. — BRIAN PRIESTLEY

Author: Jason Crane

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