Four ESP-DISK Catalogs
New York: ESP Disk, 1967-71. Four volumes. Offset. All 20pp, except for “ESP-Disk,” which is 6pp. From 6 x 9 in. to 11 1/2 x 16 1/2 in. All very good. Item #6768
Four ESP-DISK catalogs, likely contsituting a complete set of their printed catalogs.
This collection includes “We Mass Produce Art Objects That When Properly Manipulated Make Innovational Sounds to Be Dug: 1967 ESP Disk Trade Catalog,” which covers the label’s first 60 releases; the 1969 “Special Complete ESP Catalog,” with the Business Reply Mail envelope tipped in; “ESP Volume One, Number One,” the premier issue of the 1971 ESP publication that looked to “provide news of artists, their lyrics, and other data concerning the listening experience”; and “ESP-Disk,” a 1971 catalog featuring cover art from Gilbert Shelton. Besides these four, We have seen no additional ESP catalogs in institutional holdings or in commerce; this collection likely constitutes a complete set of the label’s printed catalogs.
ESP was a key actor in bringing free jazz to the larger jazz world, releasing records by Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, and Milford Graves. Founded by Bernard Stollman as a label to promote the Esperanto language, ESP promptly shifted course after Stollman heard Ayler play at the Baby Grand Bar in 1964; Ayler’s Spiritual Unity was the label’s second release. Often a source of frustration and fury for the musicians who worked with him due to small or nonexistent payments, Stollman nonetheless maintained a philosophy of “the artists alone decide what you will hear on their ESP-DISK,” which was not particularly profitable but led to the creation of a musical output with outsized influence and contemporary resonance. Stollman expanded the label’s range, releasing records in other avant-garde traditions, including proto-noise band The Godz and Ed Sanders’ band The Fuggs.
“All of the sounds in this catalog have one thing in common . . . . . They were made by free men, doing their own thing.”.