Sunday, February 12, 2012

Albert Ayler Quintet - Stockholm, Berlin 1966 (HatHut Records, 2011)

It's a fascinating idea to think of Albert Ayler playing on a package tour with the likes of Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz, but there he was in 1966 touring Europe representing the "new thing" in jazz. This is a fascinating an valuable document of that tour that had Ayler with one of his finest groups featuring Donald Ayler on trumpet, Michael Samson on violin, William Folwell on bass and Beaver Harris on drums. Both of the concerts presented here have roughly the same setlist, with “The Truth is Marching In” and “Omega” introducing the crowd to some of Ayler’s most resonant themes and the audience accepting it quite well. "Omega" almost all melody, it’s a near-classical composition with a soft beauty that Ayler hasn't really been given credit for. “Infinite Spirit/Japan” is a very interesting medley: where the group has previously mined American folk and gospel, this branches out into an Asian theme which has a great delicate sound. Attaching “Our Prayer” to familiar Ayler themes like "Bells" and “The Truth is Marching In” works really well, combining accessible melodies with fierce improvisations. There is some beautiful melodic interplay here between the horns and violin as Samson had become an integral part of the group by this point. What is fascinating about this performance is how the band is able to hold it’s fire and milk the most out of the melodic material that is available with quite a bit of patience. The heavy lifting kicks in quite often with torrid tumbling improvisation, but the band picks its spots and the music is all the more powerful for the restraint they show. This disc shows that Ayler's group was an excellent ambassador for American free-jazz. With the abundance of theme and melody, this makes an excellent introduction to Ayler's music to those music fans that are curious, but wary of his fearsome reputation.

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