Largely because of the success of The Fugs (Ed Sanders’ and Tuli Kupferberg’s beat group, to be discussed in my forthcoming essay on popular music), the e.s.p. label continues to exist, and has grown in size and substance. The faults we noted previously are still sometimes apparent—there are still no sleeve notes, and the recording quality is sometimes less than superlative—but, unlike any other label, it continues to represent contemporary developments in jazz without compromise or apology. Bernard Stollman is to be congratulated on his achievement.

In this article, we want to consider some music from the e.s.p. catalogue. Most of the musicians involved have never appeared on record before. It would be premature to attempt to gather up their work and present it as a general trend, so we intend to review each record separately.

The general principles from which all this music arises. All the musicians reviewed below work in directions that were first suggested by Ornette Coleman, and the basic principles have been considered in the preceding discussion of the new wave (New Left Review 31, 32, 34 & 35). This does not mean that it is all immediately and easily comprehensible; some of it is still very puzzling. Initially, the listener should try to suspend his musical conditioning and just let the music happen.

Byron Allen, alto saxophone: Ted Robinson, bass: Maceo Gilchrist, drums.

Time Is Past: Three Steps In The Right Direction: Decision For The ColeMan: Today’s Blues Tomorrow.

In each piece, there are changes of tempo and dynamic level, and movements between trio, duet and solo playing; the trio passages involve the interaction of three separate lines, recalling Ornette Coleman’s small groups, the Sonny Rollins Village Vanguard Trio, and the trio recordings Thelonious Monk made for the Prestige label. All changes of direction seem to succeed each other naturally. In general, the musicians are very responsive to each others’ suggestions though Robinson occasionally tries to impose bebop time. In one sense, therefore, this music is freer than earlier jazz. Though this is essentially collective improvisation, Allen’s personality dominates throughout. He is a very assured improvisor and very inventive melodically. His sound is hard and tightly organized, even when he admits harmonics and other ‘noises’ or uses contrasts between the qualities of high and low registers.

This music should encompass a wide variety of moods; in fact, it does not. Throughout, it seems to be a matter of earnest, vigorous muscular activity, very graceful but lacking any significant emotional involvement. There are no external controls provided by chord patterns, metre or any other repeated form, but it seems that the musicians have internalized control, so that they can perform together ‘freely’—Allen has emphasized that he does not rehearse his group—with the implicit assurance that nothing untoward will happen. There are no errors here, but, on the other hand, nothing is discovered. The trio does not reach the miraculous high point of free music, at which something arises out of nothing. Despite all this, Allen is obviously a very talented musician. When he can express himself more fully and function in a more permissive environment, he will make a very important contribution.