The beginning of a new proper understanding of the music of Albert Ayler beyond the faithful for many including myself in the digital age began to accelerate partly thanks to Ribot, the great Waitsian guitarist.
Back in 2011 at the height of the Occupy movement ages after the release I at last managed to hear Ribot play although his trio had been in London before around the time of release or not long after.
On the occasion it was in the city of London itself, not far from Liverpool Street station. The Vortex was doing one of its free-jazz “away days”, as it were, puttering off in the venerable charabanc or in clumps of penny farthings as the regulars might be imagined to have once chosen as their preferred means of transport because the club is such an enduring fixture of life in east London thanks to the foresight of David Mossman and Oliver Weindling. There were about 300 people present, a lot for most jazz gigs, like a Wembley crowd in terms of free-jazz.
The spirit of Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, and the blues was there. Henry Grimes, in the trio, who played and recorded with Ayler, was at the centre of everything they did that night at the Bishopsgate Institute.
I remember sitting in a small restaurant in the Finnish city of Pori listening to Ali and talking to him later at the bar. It was one of those nights etched on the memory. The Finnish president, the much loved Tarja Halonen, was also present as a member of the audience, not just to shake hands and do official things. Imagine our great and good forsaking the opera for an evening of Shatner’s Bassoon? It ain’t going to happen. Habits and social niceties and what is deemed appropriate for not so much rigorous exposure to new music but consensual acceptance of it among the most Wagnerian of arts legislators and their entourages at large die hard.
Ali told me, as I expressed I guessed breathless admiration for what he was playing in a quick snatch of a chat, to go hear Interstellar Space which I immersed myself in for ages afterwards. That sound now say played by Binker and Moses is familiar to many jazz goers. It was mostly vilified in its day and apart from on the avant circuit was hardly heard of even within jazz for decades after.