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John Coltrane's influence on John Gilmore, and vice versa


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#1 Guy

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 01:39 PM

I hope Ed Rhodes doesn't mind that I dug this piece out of the Coltrane-L archives, but I thought it was fascinating. Lots to chew on:

Date: Sat, 21 Aug 1999 20:29:51 -0400
From: "Ed Rhodes, Jr."
Subject: Re: John Gilmore (long)

At 11:46 PM 8/19/99 -0400, Michael Fitzgerald wrote:
>At 11:39 PM 8/19/99 -0400, Ed Rhodes wrote:
>>At 06:04 AM 8/19/99 -0700, p west wrote:
>>>Could anyone out there discuss John Gilmore's influence on Trane?
>>
>>Mike, this is not my doing.
>
>No, I'm sure it's not, but maybe this is the perfect opportunity to write
>that "chapter in your book"...

Well, that's a good ways off. But perhaps some comments are in order, particularly since the anniversary of Gilmore's death has just passed.

First, John Gilmore and John Coltrane had a complex, reciprocal influence on each other in a musical relationship that evolved and changed over the 10+ years between the mid-50's and Coltrane's death. Second, it was almost certainly not a simple binary relationship. Other figures from Sonny Rollins to Albert Ayler played key roles, as did a number of more obscure musicians, some of whom, in Coltrane's own words, "never recorded".

It's useful to approach the subject chronologically since the nature and direction of the influences varied substantially over time. Also, unless one was fortunate enough to have heard both men perform live frequently and consistently between, say, 1956 and 1967, one must rely on recordings to draw conclusions. I refer all interested parties to Jed Rasula's essay, "The Media of Memory: The Seductive Menace of Records in Jazz History", which is included in Krin Gabbard's collection of post-modern jazz writings, "Jazz Among the Discourses". Rasula raises the issue of reification which is a particular problem in discussing Gilmore, given that one must rely on a small handful of solos which shed some light on his more radical leanings prior to 1964. That said...

There is a substantial body of recordings by both men performing in their regular working bands from 1956. One can pick out solos from this year that show striking similarities in approach - try "Airgin" from "Cookin'" vs. "Future" from "Sun Song" - while other head-to-head's (e.g., any of the ballad performances) show marked differences. The similarities are, IMO, not evidence of the influence of either player on the other, though Miles and Sun Ra performed on the same bill in Chicago early that year. What they show is that both were coming out of the same Dexter Gordon / Wardell Gray / Sonny Stitt influence. Though the jazz critics made a fuss about Coltrane's tone and style, it was not unique and he himself said so. Jimmy Heath and Yusef Lateef had very similar approaches at that point and the Gordon / Stitt thing was widely influential among the hard boppers.

In 1957 the only extended look at Gilmore is on the "Blowing In From Chicago" record on Blue Note. It makes interesting comparison, though, with Coltrane's Prestige work from that year, especially given that it was all recorded by Rudy Van Gelder. IMO, such comparisons tend to show that Gilmore's sound was growing away from what the two had in common in 1956 while Coltrane sounds like a more polished version of his earlier self...except on the Monk record. And to put it simply without belaboring the point, there are no other tenor players, including Rollins, let alone Gilmore, who recorded anything like "Trinkle Trinkle" in 1957.

Things get interesing, IMO, in 1958 with the recording of "Star Time" by the Arkestra. There's a double time passage in Gilmore's solo which bears interesting comparison with some of Coltrane's work from that year. Per the "Sheets..." and "Moldy Sheets..." threads from the early months of this list, I always looked upon Trane's most radical '58 work - e.g., "If I Were A Bell" and "Ah Leu Cha", "Fran Dance" and "Bye Bye Blackbird" from Newport - as characterized by the groupings of notes in quantities that were not multiples of 2, in particular, not 16th notes. Gilmore's "Star Time" passage is 16th notes but the intervals and timing - the cadence - suggest that he was listening to Coltrane. The other parts of the solo sound nothing like Coltrane. Coltrane's Newport solo on "Straight No Chaser" is also straight 16th notes and a comparison of the two double time passages is instructive. It's also notable that Gilmore's other 1958 solos, from the albums "Jazz In Silhouette" and "Sound Sun Pleasure" contain no comparable 16th note passages. (But the reification piece rears its head here if all we can play for comparison is "Star Time".) Also, dating is important. If "Star Time" was recorded very early in 1958, it would give more credence to the notion that Gilmore's 16th's represent parallel evolution rather than influence. The jury's still out but I here the influence coming from Trane.

1959 doesn't shed much light on such manners. Coltrane's Atlantic recordings from that year (with the exception of "Harmonique" [Dec.]) are largely devoid of the "sheets" passages you find in "If I Were A Bell". Gilmore's solos, notably from "The Nubians of Plutonia" are, if anything, more conventional than "Star Time". A more interesting comparison can be had in 1960. Gilmore's solo on "Rocket Number 9" from "Interstellar Low Ways" (June) is critical to any consideration of his role as an innovator. It is unfortunate that it is the only solo from that year which confirms that role but confirm it does, reification be damned. Juxtapose it with any of the several versions of "So What" recorded in March and April. Note that it is Coltrane's work that is full of multiphonics, false fingerings and other pyrotechnics while Gilmore's radicalism is thematic and formal. This is the first time Gilmore actively and radically thinks in terms of groups of notes, something Coltrane was doing since "Trinkle Tinkle". I still hear a Coltrane influence but Gilmore is also creating phrasing that Coltrane did not use. The question then becomes, did this phrasing eventually come back to influence Coltrane?

Conventional wisdom and Coltrane's own testimony (Kofsky, 1966[?]) says yes, that when Gilmore came to NY in 1961 Trane started listening to him. But what, if any, recoded evidence do we have of this? Trane said there is a Gilmore influence on the Village Vangaurd recordings and I think many people have concluded that this is where the pyrotechnics of "Chasin' the Trane" came from. But Gilmore didn't record any such effects for at least another year and, even then, in very different form. Gilmore's only verfied solo's from '61 are those on the Savoy date. "Jet Flight" is about all we have to work with. But compare the extended 8th note passage with the similar passage in the long, quartet version of "Impression" that brackets Tyner dropping out by minutes on each side. Coltrane doesn't imitate Gilmore's stacatto attack but the incessant reworking of the 8th and dotted 8th motifs is clear. I always thought this was quintessential Trane but more recently I noted that there is none of this on the Sutherland Hotel recordings...and there's little or none of it in Trane's subsequent work, including the Fall '61 tour that followed the Vanguard. Check it out for yourself.

After this it gets more convoluted. Yes. More.

The real issue after 1961 is not the evolution of Trane's modality but the transition from that modality, already in place at the Vanguard, to the "free" playing of 1965 and later. No one talks about this and the process involved but I see a critical role for Gilmore here. Despite Robert Campbell's ground breaking research, I continue to feel that the dating of Sun Ra's discography between 1962 and 1965 is muddy. Still, we know that Gilmore made the transition to free playing at least a year and perhaps three years before Coltrane. The Paul Bley record, which is reliably dated to March 1964, makes that clear. Up to that point, Coltrane has no performances comparable to "Ictus", which I would characterize as proto-Aylerish. Prof. Cambell dates a similar solo on "Reflects Motion" to 1962. Therein lies a rub. But either way, Coltrane doesn't attempt to record in that style until "Ascension" (June 1965). The question then becomes, can we trace the evolution from "Chasin' the Trane" to "Evolution" and can we track Gilmore in a comparable fashion? To the former, yes. To the latter, it's not clear. But there are a small handful of Gilmore solos recorded somewhere between 1962 and 1965 which suggest a direction: "Rain Maker" from "Secrets of the Sun"; "The Idea of It All" from "When Angels Speak of Love"; "Sketch" from "Other Planes of There". "Sketch" is arguably the most important; "The Idea of It All" is comparable but not enought people have heard it. "Sketch" begins, syntactically, in areas which Coltrane and Gilmore had in common but progresses into areas where a Gilmore / Ayler comparison might be more appropriate. Coltrane had much more difficulty integrating the two approaches as he evolved towards the latter. I believe Gilmore helped show the way. Compare "Sketch" to some of the work on "Transition" or "First Meditations". Then compare the Coltrane solo on "Om" with, say, the Gilmore solo on "Next Stop Mars" from the "Angels..." album. Note how Coltrane evolved from "Om" through "Manifestation" ("Leo") and then to any number of performances from the '67 quartet and duo dates. Then go back to this Gilmore material. Do check it out.

But I said it's not binary. Ayler is in this mix. And the dating of "Reflects Motion" is even more critical to the Gilmore / Ayler relationship than it is to Gilmore / Coltrane. Is "Ictus" characteristic of Gilmore's development by 1964 or is it possible that the much more radical "Angels..." album was recorded a year before, as Prof. Campbell asserts? To what extent, if any, did Ayler catalize Gilmore's move from "Jet Flight" to "Reflects Motion" and then on to "Cosmic Chaos" or "Next Stop Mars"? We know that Ayler was an influence on Coltrane. So, the dynamic begins to get really complicated.

And it doesn't end there. The Gilmore / Coltrane scenarios have obscured another musical relationship where the lines of influence are, IMO, even clearer: John Gilmore and Pharoah Sanders. Listen, for example, to "Sketch" against Pharoah's solo on the first take of "Ascension". Listen to Gilmore on "Cosmic Chaos" and then listen to Pharoah use that same leaping altissimo figure (to substantially different effect) on "The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost" and "Sparkle Plenty". OTOH, listen to Pharoah's influence on Coltrane (the influence going the other way is patently evident), e.g., on the unissued broadcast title from Seattle or the Coltrane solo from the 1965 Down Beat festival. Per the latter, is that a Pharoah influence in the high note work or is it Gilmore? Or is it Gilmore once removed through Pharoah? Or Ayler once removed through Gilmore? Or is Trane hearing his own innovations, viz. "Chasin' the Trane", back through the players who used them as a starting point?

Multipoloar. What is it the post-modernists speak of? Intertextuality? Slippage and play? I assert there is no simple "Gilmore influence on Trane". There is, rather, the still untold story of the evolution of the tenor saxophone after bop. A chapter, a book. No doubt that's what it will take. Ed Rhodes


Edited by Guy, 05 July 2007 - 01:40 PM.


#2 Niko

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Posted 05 July 2007 - 03:57 PM

/don't have anything to contribute but) that sure was a really really interesting read :tup thanks to both of you

#3 alocispepraluger102

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Posted 09 July 2007 - 02:18 PM

what a great read!

#4 Simon Weil

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 04:43 AM

Date: Sat, 21 Aug 1999 20:29:51 -0400
From: "Ed Rhodes, Jr."


...OTOH, listen to Pharoah's influence on Coltrane (the influence going the other way is patently evident), e.g., on the unissued broadcast title from Seattle or the Coltrane solo from the 1965 Down Beat festival. Per the latter, is that a Pharoah influence in the high note work or is it Gilmore? Or is it Gilmore once removed through Pharoah? Or Ayler once removed through Gilmore? Or is Trane hearing his own innovations, viz. "Chasin' the Trane", back through the players who used them as a starting point?

Multipoloar. What is it the post-modernists speak of? Intertextuality? Slippage and play? I assert there is no simple "Gilmore influence on Trane". There is, rather, the still untold story of the evolution of the tenor saxophone after bop. A chapter, a book. No doubt that's what it will take. Ed Rhodes


This is a great post by Ed. Still, although I don't know a lot about Gilmore, nor really about Pharoah - and my knowledge of Coltrane is also not so great, I do think I have some insight into Ayler. I think he was sui generis. It's like an eruption of something or other into Jazz. I don't think this fits into any complex intertexual narrative you may make of Jazz, but rather invokes forces that are right on the edge of human expressibility - and, for this reason, have trouble fitting into any text.

Anyway, in a while, I'll write my Ayler article and be more specific.

Simon Weil

#5 CJ Shearn

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 06:00 AM

indeed that is very interesting. I don't think I have anything with Gilmore in my collection other than the date with Hank Mobley.

#6 ep1str0phy

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 04:17 PM

Fascinating read, and I'd sure like to know whether or not someone has followed up on Ed's listening "suggestions"--or, really, if there is really any more thoroughgoing analysis to this effect.

Contextualizing Ayler in this historical sequence is a somewhat complicated task as his first appearance on record, while probably not so dramatically "different" as close listening might suggest, is sufficiently radical to denote an evolutionary step a little divergent from the at least intermittently overlapping techniques of Gilmore and Trane. Ayler of course came out of the Rollins tradition--but throw in a strong number of X factors (from Don Byas to Bechet, etc.), in addition to what certainly does come across as a sui generis degree of tonal and rhythmic flexibility, and it's a lot more difficult to trace the influence of Trane and/or Gilmore there.

If Ayler's earliest recordings date to '62, and Gilmore's work might still qualify as proto-Ayler in '64 (a scant couple months before the recording of Spiritual Unity, which is more an innovation in ensemble interaction than anything else), and Trane's work didn't really jump off the tonal deep end until somewhere toward '65, then it might even make sense to problematize Ayler as an evolutionary "dark horse" that, somewhere upon his eruption onto the NY scene, catalyzed the development of some of the already motile innovators in the movement.

Can't really speak to Pharoah, but he's at least conventional enough on his earliest recording to trace him to an axis similar to that Gilmore and Coltrane orbited on.

I like the idea of "slippage and play" between the post-bop innovators of the tenor, but I think it's also important to remember that at that time the vocabulary was just coming into its own. I think the issue of "influence" is a lot more complicated for players of the last two or three decades, after ideas got a little more scarce.

#7 ep1str0phy

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 04:31 PM

To qualify the last statement--Ayler's earliest recordings as leader date to around '62, although the Ayler box and discogs have brought some newer material to light from far "stricter" environments... dealing with Ayler's military recordings is a whole other task that complicates things even further (especially as many of the apparent "influences" on those dates seem to lessen in importance as AA comes into his own).

#8 Swinging Swede

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 05:05 PM

I don't know how common knowledge it is (it was new to me), but I recently read in Bob Blumenthal's liner notes to 'Round About Midnight that when Miles Davis was putting together his new quintet in 1955, he first tried John Gilmore on a few rehearsals. That didn't work out the way Miles wanted, and Philly Joe then suggested Coltrane, whom Miles hadn't been impressed with before. Jazz history came close to being very different.

#9 mikeweil

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 05:55 PM

... and Trane winding up in the Sun Ra Arkestra for the rest of his life? Hell yeah ....

#10 Chuck Nessa

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 05:56 PM

indeed that is very interesting. I don't think I have anything with Gilmore in my collection other than the date with Hank Mobley.



Can I have a burn of that one? :mellow:

#11 Swinging Swede

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Posted 10 July 2007 - 07:17 PM

:lol:

#12 Guy

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 12:19 AM

Date: Sat, 21 Aug 1999 20:29:51 -0400
From: "Ed Rhodes, Jr."
Subject: Re: John Gilmore (long)

The Paul Bley record, which is reliably dated to March 1964, makes that clear. Up to that point, Coltrane has no performances comparable to "Ictus", which I would characterize as proto-Aylerish. Prof. Cambell dates a similar solo on "Reflects Motion" to 1962. Therein lies a rub. But either way, Coltrane doesn't attempt to record in that style until "Ascension" (June 1965).


A comment -- I hear Coltrane recording in that style before Ascension, on the sessions that produced "Transition" and the intense untitled tune that appeared Living Space. I haven't listened to Dear Old Stockholm (May 1965) in a while but I seem to recall elements of this Ayler-influenced style on one or two of those performances. And what about "Creation" on the Half Note tapes?

Guy

#13 clifford_thornton

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 01:21 AM

I really need more Ra records to get hip on this...

#14 Ed Rhodes

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 09:08 AM

I think he [Ayler] was sui generis. It's like an eruption of something or other into Jazz. I don't think this fits into any complex intertexual narrative you may make of Jazz, but rather invokes forces that are right on the edge of human expressibility - and, for this reason, have trouble fitting into any text.

Simon Weil


Simon and I share an admiration for Ayler but from almost opposite perspectives. I think it is possible - in fact, necessary - to discuss Ayler from within the jazz tradition in the same way one might discuss Sonny Rollins. And I think it is impossible to explain what happened in jazz after 1964 or thereabouts, particularly with saxophonists, without reference to Ayler, who I think is the most important influence after Trane, both chronologically and substantively. Further, I think that influence plays out like the influence of, say, Dexter Gordon or Ben Webster and it does not lie outside of the boundaries of what we understand to be jazz.

It may be of some interest in this regard to point out that Gilmore and Ayler overlapped in Paul Bley's band in early 1964. Ayler replaced Gilmore and Sunny Murray replace Paul Motion in the band that Bley recorded in March 1964 on a record titled "Turning Point". At some point during the transition, in rehearsals or actual gigs...or both...Ayler and Gilmore played in tandem over a rhythm section of Bley, Gary Peacock and probably Murray. Bley discusses this in his autobiography but there is a somewhat more extensive discussion in the April 1, 1979 issue of Coda (#166). There is also reference to it in the John Gilmore interview in Graham Lock's "Chasin' the Vibration".

#15 Ed Rhodes

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 09:24 AM

Contextualizing Ayler in this historical sequence is a somewhat complicated task as his first appearance on record, while probably not so dramatically "different" as close listening might suggest, is sufficiently radical to denote an evolutionary step a little divergent from the at least intermittently overlapping techniques of Gilmore and Trane.


But, for example, this is only true if "Reflects Motion" turns out NOT to be from 1962. If Campbell's dating proves to be correct then this has to be rethought. If you have not heard "Reflects Motion", consider if the dating of "Ictus" was '62 rather than '64.

Ayler of course came out of the Rollins tradition--but throw in a strong number of X factors (from Don Byas to Bechet, etc.), in addition to what certainly does come across as a sui generis degree of tonal and rhythmic flexibility, and it's a lot more difficult to trace the influence of Trane and/or Gilmore there.


I dont' hear the Rollins influence that many folks speak of. Except for a powerful tone, there is little other similarity IMO. OTOH, Ayler is explicity about having listened to Coltrane, though he also insists that he had a "free thing" a couple of years before that first record.

If Ayler's earliest recordings date to '62, and Gilmore's work might still qualify as proto-Ayler in '64 (a scant couple months before the recording of Spiritual Unity, which is more an innovation in ensemble interaction than anything else), and Trane's work didn't really jump off the tonal deep end until somewhere toward '65, then it might even make sense to problematize Ayler as an evolutionary "dark horse" that, somewhere upon his eruption onto the NY scene, catalyzed the development of some of the already motile innovators in the movement.


Again, the issue is that we cannot establish that "Ictus" is really where Gilmore was in '64. If "When Angels Speak of Love" was really recorded in '63, you have Gilmore coming on strong with fully developed "Aylerisms", possibly before he could have heard Ayler using them. I still have questions about the '63 date but it certainly raises some critical questions.

Can't really speak to Pharoah, but he's at least conventional enough on his earliest recording to trace him to an axis similar to that Gilmore and Coltrane orbited on.


Not really. Pharoah's ESP date is relatively straightforward post-Trane but the Sun Ra recording made a little later in the year reveals a player with a fully developed alternative to Ayler. And the unissued recording with Don Cherry fron January 1964 has Pharoah playing in a manner that sounds like a cross between "Ictus" and what we would later hear from Dewey Redman.

I like the idea of "slippage and play" between the post-bop innovators of the tenor, but I think it's also important to remember that at that time the vocabulary was just coming into its own. I think the issue of "influence" is a lot more complicated for players of the last two or three decades, after ideas got a little more scarce.


Perhaps, if complications are simply a matter of the number of people involved. I'm simply saying that, in part because of Gilmore's obscurity, and in part because the "sui generis" bit provides a basis for decontextualizing Ayler, the influences circa 1962-64 have yet to be clearly delineated.

#16 Ed Rhodes

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 09:28 AM

I don't know how common knowledge it is (it was new to me), but I recently read in Bob Blumenthal's liner notes to 'Round About Midnight that when Miles Davis was putting together his new quintet in 1955, he first tried John Gilmore on a few rehearsals. That didn't work out the way Miles wanted, and Philly Joe then suggested Coltrane, whom Miles hadn't been impressed with before. Jazz history came close to being very different.


This is covered briefly in the Miles autogiobraphy (I don't remember of Chambers or Carr deal with it). It also showed up in a John Gilmore quote but I can't find the specific reference.

Miles had a Chicago group that may or may not have actually performed earlier in '55 before Trane joined the band. Gilmore and Andrew Hill were members. Wilbur Ware may have been the bass player. The drummer's name escapes me.

#17 Ed Rhodes

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 09:34 AM

Date: Sat, 21 Aug 1999 20:29:51 -0400
From: "Ed Rhodes, Jr."
Subject: Re: John Gilmore (long)

The Paul Bley record, which is reliably dated to March 1964, makes that clear. Up to that point, Coltrane has no performances comparable to "Ictus", which I would characterize as proto-Aylerish. Prof. Cambell dates a similar solo on "Reflects Motion" to 1962. Therein lies a rub. But either way, Coltrane doesn't attempt to record in that style until "Ascension" (June 1965).


A comment -- I hear Coltrane recording in that style before Ascension, on the sessions that produced "Transition" and the intense untitled tune that appeared Living Space. I haven't listened to Dear Old Stockholm (May 1965) in a while but I seem to recall elements of this Ayler-influenced style on one or two of those performances. And what about "Creation" on the Half Note tapes?

Guy

I'm talking about something a little different from what I hear on "Transition", something a bit more evident in the second take of "Ascension" and decidedly more developed in the little solo fragment at the end of "Afro Blue" on the Seattle date. It's really about moving a little further away from a harmonic or modal structure defined by the composition and improvising a bit more freely simply utilizing scales or whatever it is. It's also about developing a syntax for keeping the solo going when the drummer stops playing in a fixed meter. This latter piece is more evident in the second take of "Ascension" and on "Sun Ship", which was recorded a couple of months later.

But even if I concede your point, we're still talking no earlier than the Spring of '65 and "Ictus" is March '64.

#18 JSngry

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 10:55 AM

Miles had a Chicago group that may or may not have actually performed earlier in '55 before Trane joined the band. Gilmore and Andrew Hill were members. Wilbur Ware may have been the bass player. The drummer's name escapes me.


I have no way to vouch for the veracity of this, but James Clay used to tell that Miles had called him for the gig pre-Trane.

#19 Rooster_Ties

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 01:45 PM

Miles had a Chicago group that may or may not have actually performed earlier in '55 before Trane joined the band. Gilmore and Andrew Hill were members. Wilbur Ware may have been the bass player.


Gilmore and Andrew Hill were members. At the same time??? :blink: :blink: :blink:

#20 Ed Rhodes

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 01:53 PM

Miles had a Chicago group that may or may not have actually performed earlier in '55 before Trane joined the band. Gilmore and Andrew Hill were members. Wilbur Ware may have been the bass player.


Gilmore and Andrew Hill were members. At the same time??? :blink: :blink: :blink:

Yes. The group was John Gilmore, Andrew Hill, Wilbur Ware, and Phil Thomas on drums.

Remember that the biographical info re: Hill that circulated during the early Blue Note era - his birth date, born in Haiti, "Hille" - is false. Hill is about the same age as Gilmore and was active in Chicago in the 50's.

#21 clifford_thornton

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 04:01 PM

That would be an interesting group to hear.

I guess this would've been a year before the Warwick LP, which is a neat little date.

#22 ep1str0phy

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Posted 14 July 2007 - 05:12 PM

Ed--Well, it's difficult to answer to the notion that a lot of early-mid 60's Gilmore's history is still shrouded in mystery, which shifts a lot of the discussion into speculative territory. Point taken much more clearly than on initial impact...

Re: Ayler and Rollins--the argument that I've heard, and agree with to some degree, relates how Ayler takes after the Rollins school of motivic improvisation--nothing so much to do with specific techniques (and definitely not the Ayler's arsenal of extended techniques) as much as the development of ideas. I mean, there's a centrality to thematic variation in the music of both saxophonists, but I would agree that the nature of the motivic improvisation differs from one musician to the other. Ayler is to my ears centered more on dissembling a motive, rearranging, extracting, and adding materials to a theme while retaining at times different characteristics of that theme (melodically, harmonically, rhythmically, timbrally, dynamically)--and it's a "freer" extrapolation on a motive to the extent that 1) Ayler was generally not bounded by traditional ensemble and harmonic dynamics and 2) Ayler's improvisations seemed to service the composition, whereas Rollins's flights often operated the other way around.

As far as Pharoah--although we can certainly acknowledge, in words, Ayler's debt to Trane, it just seems plainer precisely where Pharoah "put" his Trane.

Agreed, though, that a sui generis perspective on Ayler can be a little dangerous. I'm not sure to what degree Simon understands Ayler as unprecedented, but the influences are there when you look for them, sometimes even when you don't. The total product, however, was something new--having all those attributes in one place at the same time.

Moreover--and this is a thing I was getting at with the "vocabulary just coming in to its own"--I'm thinking of a biology term--convergent evolution (unrelated species evolve similar traits). With all the creativity in the air in the 60's, it's possible--speculative, of course, but a little more than doubtful--that even musicians who traveled in the same circles could have independently developed similar mechanisms for expanding the saxophone's vocabulary. Later, though, after we've scoured the outer regions of what the saxophone can do in terms of extended techniques, it might be more credible to assume that one reedman borrowed from another. Indicative, perhaps, of what happens once an idiom passes through a period of exhaustive creativity...

#23 Simon Weil

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 06:26 AM

I think he [Ayler] was sui generis. It's like an eruption of something or other into Jazz. I don't think this fits into any complex intertexual narrative you may make of Jazz, but rather invokes forces that are right on the edge of human expressibility - and, for this reason, have trouble fitting into any text.

Simon Weil


Simon and I share an admiration for Ayler but from almost opposite perspectives. I think it is possible - in fact, necessary - to discuss Ayler from within the jazz tradition in the same way one might discuss Sonny Rollins. And I think it is impossible to explain what happened in jazz after 1964 or thereabouts, particularly with saxophonists, without reference to Ayler, who I think is the most important influence after Trane, both chronologically and substantively. Further, I think that influence plays out like the influence of, say, Dexter Gordon or Ben Webster and it does not lie outside of the boundaries of what we understand to be jazz.


Ed is right to say we come at this from differing perspectives. But I would offer that they are complimentary rather than opposite or nearly so. My basic question is always "how profound is this?" rather than does "how does it fit into the history of Jazz?" So then my answer is Ayler's in the same league as Modernist art greats - e.g. Matisse and Kandinsky. But, further than that, I happen to know Kandinsky's art pretty well - and Ayler's relationship to his art, his philosophy of it if you will, is absolutely parallel to Kandinsky's. So much so that I feel Ayler is trying to do within Jazz much the same that Kandinsky was doing in visual art.

The basic idea, common to the two of them, is that one has to transcend the usual forms to find God. That God is in some sense hidden. This idea starts with the neo-platonists (just about 2000 years ago) and ramifies through Christianity (e.g. the mystics) and Islam and ends up in all sort
weird and less than wonderful people today. Kandinsky probably gets it from Theosophy and Ayler may have got if from Arab music (which he was studying in 1961, at the period he as forming his style).

So my argument is that Ayler was trying to do in Jazz was Kandinsky was doing in art - find a new form in order to find God - and that his form of Jazz parallels Kandinsky's innovation in art, that is it is a form of abstraction. But that, contrary to what the critics say, it is a real form and not just chaos. For, as with Kandinsky, one can find a form behind the standard forms and still exist.

It may be of some interest in this regard to point out that Gilmore and Ayler overlapped in Paul Bley's band in early 1964. Ayler replaced Gilmore and Sunny Murray replace Paul Motion in the band that Bley recorded in March 1964 on a record titled "Turning Point". At some point during the transition, in rehearsals or actual gigs...or both...Ayler and Gilmore played in tandem over a rhythm section of Bley, Gary Peacock and probably Murray. Bley discusses this in his autobiography but there is a somewhat more extensive discussion in the April 1, 1979 issue of Coda (#166). There is also reference to it in the John Gilmore interview in Graham Lock's "Chasin' the Vibration".


The problem is I don't really know Gilmore well enough (also I don't have the Bley record). It's just that I don't respond to him in the way I do to Ayler. I've got the biog, and remember it as being not very enlightening. I realise that this is not very scientific, but it seems to me that Ayler was this other thing.

AA says there's a line of influence you can trace back to Illinois Jacquet and that this comes out in Pharoah Sanders (and presumably others including Gilmore). He also suggests that R+B players had a profound influence on him. But I think he transcends this line as well as being part of it.

So, sui generis in that.

Simon Weil

#24 Shawn

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 06:36 AM

Remember that the biographical info re: Hill that circulated during the early Blue Note era - his birth date, born in Haiti, "Hille" - is false. Hill is about the same age as Gilmore and was active in Chicago in the 50's.


So, did Andrew concoct the false bio?

#25 jazzbo

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Posted 15 July 2007 - 07:25 AM

I believe so, yes.



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