ESP Disk

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ESP-DISK’ opened for business in New York City in 1966 on the 12th floor of 156 5th Avenue. During its first 18 months, 45 albums were recorded and released, featuring previously unknown free improvisational artists. The only exceptions were Ornette Coleman and Paul Bley, both of whom had gained global recognition during the 1950’s. Artists who made their debuts as leaders on ESP included Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Gato Barbieri, Bob James, Marion Brown, Roswell Rudd, Burton Greene, Patty Waters, Henry Grimes, Charles Tyler, Sunny Murray, Milford Graves, Sonny Simmons, Ronnie Boykins and Frank Wright. Several of these artists were then quickly sought out and recorded by the Impulse and Columbia labels. ESP had signed no term agreements with its artists, anticipating that this might happen, and that they would then enjoy promotional support from these large companies.

ESP’s rock groups, the Fugs and the Pearls Before Swine, wrote and recorded powerful statements against the war in Viet Nam, (KILL FOR PEACE, UNCLE JOHN) and their records rose quickly towards the top of the pop charts, through word of mouth. Over night, the record industry began bootlegging their lps, and no further orders reached ESP. In 1968, less than 3 years after its launch, ESP was driven out of business. The new music that was the major focus of the label was ignored in the U.S., while it was celebrated in Europe and Japan, where licensing agreements were made. Bernard Stollman, who had founded ESP, continued to produce records, although his distributors had shifted to purchasing bootlegs of these recordings, and his market had vanished, He treaded water until 1974, when the label ran out of funding.

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  • HealeyIsland

    Ed Askew has recorded a sublime session for Greg Healey's show on Dandelion Radio this month. Already regarded as one of the finest Dandelion Radio sessions, this is a truly wonderful recording, with Steve Gunn on accompaniment. The show can be heard at different times each day on Dandelion through out March. Here is the schedule http://www.dandelionradio.com/schedule.htm Thanks again to Ed and Steve for taking time to record this.

    March 2010
  • F_Hole

    Greenwich Village in the '60's, the poets, dIggers, hippies, Washington Sq., Kerista, nascent Black Power, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Ornette, The Fugs at the P-Town Theater; all of this conjured by the mysterious sounds of ESP-Disk. I'm so glad to see you back in business; it brings it all back for me.

    January 2008
  • MilesBachman

    ESP-Disk record fans/listeners - we need more people who actually listen to these artists on http://www.last.fm/group/ESP+Disk

    November 2007
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