Thursday, May 17, 2007

Albert Ayler - My Name is Albert Ayler (Debut, 1963)

Not to be confused with the film of the same name, this is one of tenor saxophonist (soprano saxophonist on this date as well) and composer Ayler's earliest albums, catching him in a transitional phase between his bebop and R&B roots and the ecstatic free jazz of his future. It's an uneasy transition, Ayler is clearly questing and moving forward, but the backing group, made up of Niels Brosted on piano, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass and Ronnie Gardiner on drums really has no idea what is going on and insists in plodding on with mainstream hard-bop accompaniment while Ayler strains at the leash throughout. Hearing Alyer interpret standards is fascinating. His tenor saxophone has a truly massive sound and hits you in the gut with a nearly physical presence, but there is still some deeply melodic playing. The bebop chestnut "Billie's Bounce" gets a pretty straightforward reading - Ayler knew his bebop well, it's hard to believe but this was the man who was called "Little Bird" as a young man in Cleveland. Where you really get the sense of the Ayler to come is on the Gershwin standard "Summertime" where the band doggedly sticks to the straight ahead feel and Ayler leaves the world behind for a plethora of screams, shrieks and honks. Like an experiment in sound collage that is way ahead of its time, the juxtaposition between the soloist and the band is head-spinning. Finally the original "C.T." taken as a trio piece with piano laying out allows Ayler to work on some of the things he learned while sitting in with the tunes dedicatee, Cecil Taylor. Another interesting curio on this record is the spoken introduction by Alyer. His soft and gentle tone of voice still conveys great yearning and purpose and adds a fascinating touch. Ayler would have to go to New York before he was able to locate truly sympathetic collaborators, and while the music on this album isn't always successful it is always interesting and provides insight into Alyer's rapid growth as a musician.

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