ESP-Disk was a NYC-based independent label that in its short existence (1964-1974) released platters few if any of the major labels would consider touching: readings by Timothy Leary and William S. Burroughs, avant-garde jazz by Albert Ayler, Marion Brown, and Pharaoh Sanders [his debut!], underground rock by the Fugs, Godz, and Pearls Before Swine, and more. In `05 the label was revived by founder Bernard Stollman and old and new product hit the shelves.
Multi-reeds player Marzette Watts (1938-1998) was never close to the big time and is barely known outside of free jazz circles--but he made powerful music that stands the test of time. "Company" is not an "easy" listen, even by my copiously warped standards. "Company" is a fiery blow-out, a free-form blitz guaranteed to induce seizures in Tea Partiers and Kenny G fans. Melody and harmony are for the most part beside-the-point but the whip-smart playing of drummer J.C. Moses, who had an extensive background in more straight-ahead jazz, is the cosmic glue holding this session together. Also, vibes player Karl Berger has some luminously lyrical passages. A major reason to celebrate this disc's return to the marketplace is the sublimely raucous guitar of Sonny Sharrock, perhaps the first player to apply Coltrane/Ayler levels of "free" to electric six-strings. "Company" is an uncompromising trip full of haunting, anguished wails...it's a little dated and the nonstop ragged fury can get a little numbing (as I said: depending on yr mood), but it's still compelling and frequently cathartic. Not a disc for the free jazz neophyte but for the devotees of free jazz (especially of the mid-1960s): Essential.