You never heard such sounds in your life!
In 1964, Bernard Stollman launched the independent record label ESP-Disk’ (short for “Esperanto Disko”) in New York City to document the free jazz movement there, beginning with iconic saxophonist Albert Ayler. A bare-bones enterprise, ESP was in the right place at the right time, producing albums by artists like Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, Giuseppi Logan, and Patty Waters. Soon the label broadened its catalog, including recordings by folk-rock bands like The Fugs and Pearls Before Swine, as well as Timothy Leary, William Burroughs, and Charles Manson. But the label quickly ran into difficulties and, due to the politically subversive nature of some productions and sloppy business practices, it folded in 1974. The story of ESP-Disk’ is told through a multitude of voices—first by Stollman, as he recounts the improbable life of the label, and then by many of the artists involved. The result is a fascinating account of the music and the times. Includes interviews with Amiri Baraka, Gato Barbieri, Milford Graves, Roswell Rudd, Sirone, Sonny Simmons, James Zitro, Tom Rapp, Sunny Murray, and many more.
“ESP’s music was startling, and it was unusual to have one company bring out so many styles of music at once under the same logo. This book takes a biographical approach to the label, and presents one of the best accounts I’ve seen of a chaotic, bizarre, and thrilling time.”—John Szwed, author of Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World
“By allowing Bernard Stollman and the artists he embraced to speak, multiple perspectives illuminate human stories that are by turns incisive, tragic, hilarious, petty, visionary, idealistic, paranoid, and never pedestrian.”—Nels Cline, guitarist for Wilco, The Nels Cline Singers, and others