“Weiss wonderfully describes the role of ESP in the birth of the free jazz movement and points to the necessity of record label owners (such as Stollman) who translate their passion for music into new musical forms. An absorbing account that will interest any music fan.”—Dave Szatmary, Library Journal
You never heard such sounds in your life
In 1964, Bernard Stollman launched the independent record label ESP-Disk’ in New York City to document the free jazz movement there. A bare-bones enterprise, ESP was in the right place at the right time, producing albums by artists like Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, and Sun Ra, as well as folk-rock bands like the Fugs and Pearls Before Swine. 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. Always in Trouble tells the story of ESP-Disk’ through a multitude of voices—first Stollman’s, as he recounts the improbable life of the label, and then the voices of many of the artists involved.
To view a complete discography of ESP-Disk’s records, visit this
Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS
Reviews / Endorsements
“’I didn’t want ESP to be a niche label,’ Mr. Stollman explained in Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk, the Most Outrageous Record Label in America by Jason Weiss. ‘Art is anachronistic, and when it becomes categorized, it loses impact. I wanted people who were innovative and inspirational.’”—Nate Chinen, The New York Times
“Bernard Stollman captured the 60s zeitgeist before it’d even hit. His now-legendary label, ESP-Disk, provided the means for a wealth of free jazz firewalkers (Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Frank Wright, Giuseppi Logan) and polemical folk provocateurs (The Fugs and The Holy Modal Rounders) to get their far-out sounds to a wider audience.”—Spencer Grady, Record Collector
“Always in Trouble, an oral history of the label by Jason Weiss, is powered by the friction of Bernard Stollman’s twin legacies – production of sui generis records and relentless ineptitude in practical business matters. It’s an important book, not just in documenting a unique cultural moment and a unique achievement, but in exploring the contradictions inherent in any creative enterprise, and whether these forces can ever be reconciled… it’s a mishmash of recollections that seesaw between the personal and the professional, the passionate and the pragmatic, by turns fascinating and exasperating, leaving the reader, as Stollman left many of his artists, feeling both grateful and disappointed.”—Steve Danziger, Open Letters Monthly
“The mother lode for devotees of the jazz avant-garde and outré music in general, Jason Weiss’ Always in Trouble is a collection of incisive Q&As with the principals and players behind the game-changing company founded by Bernard Stollman in 1964. …(the) best material comes from Stollman himself… Like the music he purveyed, Stollman’s stories are full of strangeness as well as lyricism.”—Evan Haga, JazzTimes
“[The] oral history, Always In Trouble, focuses on the label, [ESP-Disk]’s mission to provide a voice to outsiders who were having a hard time getting heard.”—Larry Jaffe, Rock’s Back Pages
“This is a book that needed to be written.” —Robert Iannapollo, ARSC Journal
“Weiss provides an entertaining oral history of the highly eclectic record label from the 1960s, ESP-Disk.”
“As today a resuscitated ESP-Disk repackages its past while trying to rectify its spotted history, Weiss’ volume captures its initial impact on the nascent experimental scheme in its participants’ own words.”—Ken Waxman, New York Jazz Record
“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
“Always in Trouble brims with lively, revealing stories and anecdotes. A multi-sided look at the legendary ESP record label, it is essential reading for anyone interested in the cultural explosions of the 1960s.”——Nathaniel Mackey, author of Bass Cathedral
“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
- Best Books of 2012 by the New York City Jazz Record (2012) Commendation
JASON WEISS is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. His books include Steve Lacy: Conversations and Back in No Time: The Brion Gysin Reader. Weiss lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Click here for author's website.