I'm thrilled to announce that starting this week I'll be featuring on a regular basis free downloads from the legendary ESP label. Started in 1966 by Bernard Stollman, ESP, during the few years it was operational, built up a truly astounding catalog of free jazz (and adventurous pop and rock), with albums by Sun Ra, Paul Bley, Ornette Coleman, Milford Graves, Pharaoh Sanders, the Fugs, Pearls Before Swine and many more.
It's fitting to begin this series of ESP downloads with the opening track from the first record the label ever released, and one of the greatest free jazz records ever made, saxophonist Albert Ayler's "Spiritual Unity." There's little music as viscerally, ecstatically powerful as that made by Ayler, little music in which the intent at uplift is placed so baldly on the surface, with all other concerns subsumed. "Ghosts," a simple, gospel-ish melody, is one of his classic compositions, and this trio, with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray, is among the best he ever assembled. You can hear in Ayler's playing the extraordinary conviction that if he just concentrates hard enough -- and blows on that horn hard enough -- he'll achieve transcendence. What's really extraordinary is that it works.