Monday, August 6, 2012

Improvised Music Before 1970: An Incomplete Discography [UPDATED 5/17]

This is a list of recordings of free improvisation that were made before 1970. By free improvisation, I mean any music within which, as a matter of principle, the musician has complete freedom to do whatever he/she wishes. This presupposes that there is no composition whose directions are being followed: not a motive, not a graphic score, not a riff, and no conduction.

These criteria are probably too strict. But that's what I'm working with here.

Thanks for reading so far -- please keep reading a little further, since I think you'll be interested in my current "holy grail" for improvised music:
The Roy Eldridge recording. Barry Ulanov interviewed Roy Eldridge for his History of Jazz In America (1952). Asked about free improvisation, Eldridge described a session with pianist Clyde Hart: 
"Clyde Hart and I made a record like that once. We decided in front that there'd be no regular chords, we'd announce no keys, stick to no progressions. Only once I fell into a minor key; the rest was free, just blowing. And, man, it felt good." (p. 239) 
I have checked many jazz history books and discographies since first reading this in 2012 and I have found absolutely no leads. Clyde Hart died in 1945, and the only documented collaborations between the two happened between 1938 and 1940 or so. (They played together in Chu Berry's band, and possibly others.) So I'm assuming it had to be around that time. This would be incredibly early, predating Lennie Tristano's, and even Stuff Smith's experiments with free improvisation. 
The first possibility is that it was recorded and released. But given that three major jazz discographies do not have any such entry, this seems very unlikely. If it was in fact recorded, there's the possibility that it was never released. If that's the case, the master was either discarded or it was put into storage. Eldridge and Hart recorded together with Chu Berry on Commodore records, so that may be a good starting point. 
If I had the money I would offer $1,000,000 for the location of this recording. Post a comment if you have any information!!
Recent additions have been made for the following artists (updated May 2017):

Clare Fischer (5/17)
Charlie Nothing
Gruppo Romano Free Jazz
Mario Schiano
Chico Hamilton Quintet
Paul Horn

 Improvised Music Before 1970 - An (Incomplete) Discography

AMM, “AMMMusic”, Elektra, 1966
AMM / Musica Elettronica Viva, “Live Electronic Music Improvised”. Mainstream Records, 1970
AMM, “The Crypt – 12th, June, 1968”. Matchless Recordings, 1978
Amon Düül, "Psychedelic Underground"
Amon Düül, "Collapsing"
Amon Düül, "Disaster"

Charles Ives, “Ives Plays Ives – The Complete Recordings of Charles Ives at the Piano, 1933-1943”. Composers Recordings, Inc. [Two, maybe three tracks improvised.]
Charlie Nothing, "The Psychedelic Saxophone of Charlie Nothing". Takoma Records, 1967.
Charlie Nothing, "Outside/Inside". De Stijl Records, 2011 [recorded in 1969]. 
Chico Hamilton Quintet, "s/t". Pacific Jazz, 1955. One track ('Free Form') fully improvised.
Columbia Symphony Orchestra, “Lukas Foss: Time Cycle”. Columbia, 1962 [Featuring improvised interludes by Foss' Improvisation Chamber Ensemble.]
Clare Fischer, "First Time Out". Pacific Jazz, 1962. One track ('Free Too Long') apparently fully improvised.

Django Reinhardt, "In Solitaire". Definitive, 2005 [recorded between 1937-1950]

Erroll Garner, “Overture to Dawn, vol. 1”. Blue Note, 195? [recorded in 1944]
Erroll Garner, “Overture to Dawn, vol. 2”. Blue Note, 195? [recorded in 1944]
Erroll Garner, “Afternoon of an Elf”, Mercury, 1955. [One track improvised.]

Free Form Improvisation Ensemble, “The Free Form Improvisation Ensemble”. Cadence, 1998 [recorded in 1964]

Georges I. Gurdjieff, “Harmonic Development”. Basta, 2005 [recorded in 1948-49]
Group Ongaku, “Music by Group Ongaku” Seer Sound Archive, released in 1996/2011, recorded in 1960.
Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, “The Private Sea of Dreams” [US title]. RCA Victor, 1967.
Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, “Improvisationen”. Deutsche Grammophon, 1968.
Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, “The Feed-back”. RCA Italiana, 1970.
Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, “1967-1975”. Edition RZ, 1992.
Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, “Azioni”. Die Schachtel, 2006.
Gruppo Romano Free Jazz, "1966-67". Vedette, 1977. [recorded in 1967]

Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, "Featuring the Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids". Liberty, 1967.

Jean Dubuffet & Asger Jorn, “Musique Phénoménale”. 4 10''-record set, 50 copies, Edizione del Cavallino, 1961.
Jean Dubuffet, “Experiences Musicales”. Finnadar, 1973.

Lennie Tristano, “Crosscurrents”. Capitol Records, 1972. [recorded in 1949]

Malachi, "Holy Music". Verve Records, 1966.
Mario Schiano, "Original Sins 1967/70 Unreleased". Splasc(h), 1992. [recorded between 1967 and 1970]
Musica Elettronica Viva, “Friday”. Polydor, 1969.
Musica Elettronica Viva, “The Sound Pool”. Actuel, 1970.
Musica Elettronica Viva, “The Original”. IRML, 1996.
Musica Elettronica Viva, “Rome Cansrt”. IRML, 1999.
Musica Elettronica Viva, “Spacecraft / Unified Patchwork Theory”. Alga Marghen, 2001. [disc 1 recorded in 1967.]
Musica Elettronica Viva, “Pieces”. IRML, 2004. [recorded in 1966/67]
Musica Elettronica Viva, “MEV 40”. New World Records, 2008. [disc 1 recorded in 1967]

New Music Ensemble, “Improvisations”. New Music Ensemble, 1963.
New Music Ensemble, “New Music Ensemble II”. New Music Ensemble, 1964.

Nihilist Spasm Band, “The Sweetest Country This Side of Heaven”. Arts Canada, 1967.

Nihilist Spasm Band, “No Record”. Allied Record Corporation, 1968.

Paul Horn, "House of Horn". Dot Records, 1957. Several solo flute tracks are apparently improvised.

The Red Crayola & the Familiar Ugly, “Parable of Arable Land”. International Artists, 1967. Free-form Freak-out tracks are improvised, also the title track.
The Red Krayola, “God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It”. International Artists, 1968. (2, maybe 3 tracks improvised)
The Red Crayola, “Live 1967”. Drag City, 1998. [recorded in 1967]
The Red Krayola, “Coconut Hotel”. Drag City, 2005. [recorded in 1967]
Roy Eldridge & Clyde Hart, unknown title, unissued? 1939?

Stuff Smith & Robert Crum, “The 1944 Rosenkrantz Apartment Transcriptions”. AB Fable, 2002.
Stuff Smith, “1944–1946 Studio, Broadcast, Concert & Apartment Performances”. AB Fable, 2002.

Tangerine Dream, "Electronic Meditation"

Last updated May 2017

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