Friday, April 27, 2012

Frank Wright Quartet - Blues for Albert Ayler (ESP, 2012)

Recorded at Rashied Ali's performance space Ali's Alley during the height of the "loft jazz" era, this is really an undiscovered gem rescued from the lists of time. Saxophonist and flutist Wright and guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer had recently returned from engagements in Europe, and took part in this "welcome home" gig along with Benny Wilson on bass and Ali himself on drums. It is a high spirited and frequently thrilling affair - Wright is in top form, boisterous and free, but never spiraling out of control, on this night he was a man in his moment and the music flowed forth in great washes. The music comes The music comes in the form of a six part suite dedicated to the memory of free-jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler, whom Wright knew while growing up in Cleveland, and you really get the sense that the band was channeling Ayler's unbridled creativity, and they way in which he would begin with a basic theme and spool out extraordinary improvisations. "Part One" and "Part Three" of this continuous suite are the most enthralling with Wright sending out gales of howling saxophone and James "Blood" Ulmer, well on the way to a breakthrough of his own, showing an unusual guitar technique he developed while playing with Ornette Coleman and embracing Coleman's "harmolodic" music system. Shards of crystalline electricity and even elements of funk propel the music to ever greater heights. Benny Wilson gets a lengthy bass solo on "Part Four" before Wright enters on flute to begin the epic twenty minute plus "Part Five" where they pull out all the stops, moving from a quiet beginning through different aspects of soloing and collective improvisation. They take things really out here, but there is always the sense of knowing their destiny and the path on which they trod. By the time "Part Six" comes around they have one more chance to shine before shutting down for the evening. This is a very exciting recording and must for fans of the loft era and free jazz in general. Blues for Albert Ayler - amazon.com

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