Vinyl Night: Collapses Will Happen

“What’s a good night for Dave to come over for Vinyl Night?” I asked my wife Sandy recently.

She rolled her eyes magnificently and exclaimed “Vinyl Night? There is no good night for Vinyl Night!”

And why did she say that? Because when my excellent pal Dave comes over for Vinyl Night, as he does once or twice a year, we listen to a genre of music that Sandy, to say the least, hates. “I don’t consider it to be music,” she explained to me succinctly during dinner not long ago. Understood.

And you know what? Boatloads of people would agree with her, but they can’t, because most folks have never experienced this kind of music. Don’t know that it exists. Here’s what I’m talking about: On Vinyl Nights, Dave and I gorge on jazz of the avant-garde variety. The wild and aggressive type in which melody often is minimal and screeching horns and thrashing drums are the norm. The type that might well be described as seismic in quality and in effect, as will become apparent.

Free jazz. That’s the name that has stuck to this fringe music which began to emerge in the mid-1950s. And liberating it is. The musicians are free to roam far and wide. And the music opens the minds and loosens the emotional chains of those listeners who like it, such as Dave and I, tossing us around like hold-on-for-your-lives roller coaster riders.

Sandy relented and Dave ended up coming over on a Wednesday night, because that was when she had plans to watch a lot of prime time television in the upstairs bedroom. Dave and I, in the living room, would be free to crank up the stereo system’s volume as high as we might. Turns out that wasn’t a good idea.

Vinyl Night's albums photographed on bunker floor before Vinyl Night began.
Vinyl Night’s albums photographed in basement before Vinyl Night began.

In preparation for each Vinyl Night I head to the basement room where my most prized possession resides: my vinyl album collection. I’ve got a ton of albums. Lots of musical styles. Never got rid of any of them, one of the smart calls I’ve made in life. On the afternoon of this most recent occasion I  walked to the shelves holding the discs and made the selections for that evening’s Vinyl Night. Albums by Jimmy Lyons, Roswell Rudd, Grachan Moncur III, Art Ensemble Of Chicago,  Archie Shepp, John Carter/Bobby Bradford, and Albert Ayler. Household names, no? As always, Dave and I would listen to one side of each album.

The three albums that caused problems. Photographed in bunker before Vinyl Night began.
The three albums that caused problems. Photographed in basement before Vinyl Night began.

Dave arrived around 8:00 PM. Sandy gave him a hug and walked upstairs, not to be seen again for a couple of hours. I placed side one of Jimmy Lyons’ Other Afternoons (recorded in 1969) on the turntable and an evening of fun, then mayhem, began. Jimmy Lyons no longer is with us, but his recordings live on with force. And force is what soon blew through the stereo speakers in my living room. The title track, Other Afternoons, began calmly enough. Didn’t take long however for alto saxophonist Lyons and his cohorts to wail and fly as though demons were on their tails and gaining fast (click here to listen). That’s when Dave and I thought we heard the sounds of wood and plaster creaking a bit more than they should in an old house. We put those thoughts out of our minds.

Several albums later a firestorm hit the turntable, Archie Shepp’s The Magic Of Ju-Ju (recorded in 1967). The title song, occupying all of side one, made Other Afternoons sound like a wimp. Shepp, whose career began in the early 1960s and who is alive and kicking, hit the ground at Usain Bolt speed, screaming on his tenor saxophone for 18 minutes over a drumming cacophony (click here to listen). I was amazed, mesmerized and kind of in a daze. Dave too. That’s the power of Shepp. We definitely heard those creaking sounds again, some rumbling ones also, but put them out of our minds.

The problems became undeniable a couple of albums after Shepp’s. Tenorman Albert Ayler, long gone, went stratospheric at around the six minute mark of Spirits Rejoice (recorded in 1966), which takes up all of side three on The Village Concerts double album (click here to listen). My house couldn’t take it any longer. Plaster started falling from the living room ceiling. The living room floorboards began to buckle and give way. Good things weren’t happening upstairs either. Sandy came running down the stairs. “I really, really hate this music,” she yelled as she and I and Dave bolted out the front door. We stood in disbelief on the sidewalk as Sandy’s and my suburban home dropped to the ground. The house’s descent took a long time and was extremely jarring, just like the saxophone, trumpet and other instrumental solos that Dave and I grooved to on that most infamous of Vinyl Nights.

The next day I called my Allstate agent. I described the bizarre situation to her. She said, “You’re out of luck, Neil. Your homeowners policy specifically prohibits you from playing any free jazz above the 80-decibel level. Allstate isn’t going to pay you a cent. We may be the ‘you’re in good hands’ people, like our logo says, but we’re not fools like you!”

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22 thoughts on “Vinyl Night: Collapses Will Happen

  1. nissetje March 30, 2016 / 7:23 pm

    Okay, so Archie Shepp, The Magic of Ju-Ju? Holy shit. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger March 30, 2016 / 8:02 pm

      The Magic Of Ju-Ju is Shepp at his most extreme. He has a mellower side, though. He’s a great musician, worth checking out on YouTube.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nissetje March 30, 2016 / 8:16 pm

        I totally will. I was rocking out to that one, though. (Can I say “rocking out” when it’s jazz? Well, I did!)

        Liked by 1 person

          • nissetje March 30, 2016 / 10:00 pm

            Um, I don’t think my house insurance would cover that!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. greenpete58 April 1, 2016 / 10:41 pm

    Fantastic essay! And despite what that pathetic Allstate agent said, you’re no fool! I have all my vinyl, too, including a little free jazz, which is great for cleaning all the b.s. out of a man’s system. Be careful, though, or you may end up like poor Alfred Ayler… tied to a jukebox and staring up from the bottom of the East River!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 2, 2016 / 8:36 am

      Thanks, Pete. Despite all that has happened, I’m going to continue to listen to free jazz! Once it’s in your blood, there’s no going back.

      Like

  3. Aunt Beulah April 4, 2016 / 2:36 pm

    So I listened to the bits and I’m 100% with Sandy; and nothing you might say could convince me otherwise, especially it your words involve old houses collapsing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. swabby429 April 6, 2016 / 6:08 pm

    I listened to some of these artists as intellectual exercizes when I was assigned to play them during Music Appreciation 101 at Wayne State College. I sort of got the feel for them then, but I haven’t taken the time to listen for several decades. I’ll check the Web for samples.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 6, 2016 / 7:44 pm

      It’s powerful stuff. I liked this sort of music the first time I heard it (in 1969).

      Like

  5. Eugene Knapik April 6, 2016 / 7:17 pm

    At home, I’m an old time music freak, but when I’m with my friend Vox, we listen to Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra and Miles Davis and Pharoah Sanders and so on. For a long time I listened to jazz in my painting studio. I’m not really good at putting words to my painting, but sometimes I think, like Ornette Coleman, but in the woods.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Brian Lageose April 11, 2016 / 3:01 am

    Totally with you on the vinyl angle. There is a warmth there that disappears when you digitize it…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. franklparker April 26, 2016 / 5:15 am

    When everyone else was listening to Elvis and Buddy Holly, me and my mates were listening to Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims, Brubeck, and the MJQ, among others. Later it was Prog Rock that moved me. Haven’t listened to any of it for years now, so thanks for the memory.

    Liked by 1 person

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