Friday, August 27, 2004

Albert Ayler – The Hilversum Session (Osmosis, 1964, 1999)

Albert Ayler was just starting to hit his peak as one of the legends of the avant-garde when this was recorded in the Netherlands in 1964. He was already a polarizing influence in the United States, but like so many members of the jazz avant-garde (and even some mainstream musicians like Ben Webster) he found more acceptance for his music and less racism while performing in Europe. Joining him on this session were Don Cherry on trumpet, Gary Peacock on bass and Sunny Murray on drums.

"Angels" kicks this off with a mournful theme played in unison, many of Ayler's melodies were based on older folk melodies giving his music a distinctive feel. The group improvises collectively and then Cherry take a brief solo before finishing the tune. "C.A.C." is more uptempo and frenetic, with an intense solo from Ayler that then interweaves with Cherry's trumpet while Peacock and Murray back up solidly from behind. "Ghosts" is one of Ayler's classic melodies, mixing gospel, folk and r&b. When Ayler began to play estatic gospel-jazz toward the end of his career, people acted appaled, as if it was beyond precedent, but it really wasn't – the roots are all here in his best known tune.

Don Cherry's "Infant Happiness" finds Ayler taking an infant-like crying solo followed by an extended improvisation by the composer. "Spirits" is another familiar Ayler song, and would be repeated many times on future albums. Ayler again gets in another intense "speaking in tounges" solo. The record ends with an unnamed tune. This one might be a little hard to find, but it's worth the search to hear what amounts to a free jazz supergroup playing at a very high level.

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