Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Albert Ayler - Love Cry/The Last Album (Impulse!, 2011)

Impulse! Is celebrating their 50th anniversary with several re-issues including a collection of “2-fers,” two albums on one compact disc (or mp3 download.) This is one of the most interesting of the bunch, because it contains two relative rarities by the free-jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler. I’ll risk the wrath of the cognoscenti by stating up front that I think Love Cry was one of Ayler’s finest LP’s. Released in 1967 with Ayler on tenor and alto saxophones, Donald Ayler on trumpet, Call Cobbs on piano and harpsichord, Alan Silva on bass and Milford Graves on drums, it features short themes and improvisations that are accessible, yet experimental and stick in the mind like an earworm long afterward. Ayler re-visits some of his well known themes like “Ghosts” and “Bells” re-arranged for lucid short blasts of music. Cobbs' harpsichord is a wildcard, but it works quite well, giving the music an unusual and unique sound. Graves and Silva are an inspired rhythmic team, giving free flow to a wealth of musical ideas and Ayler sounds simply magisterial throughout. “Universal Indians” shows that they didn’t leave their roots behind, it’s a free-jazz blowout with a nice trumpet and tenor dialogue that is ripe and torrid, while Graves is simply extraordinary propelling everyone ever onward, it is also the album’s one epic, clocking in at almost ten minutes. I think it’s amusing that people consider Ayler’s The Last Album, compiled and released in 1971, a year after his death, to be a sellout. I mean it opens with an improvised duet for abstract electric guitar and bagpipes, for goodness sake. Mary Maria Parks’ vocals are an acquired taste, but Ayler sounds fine backing her on “Again Comes The Rising Of The Sun,” especially when breaking out on a caustic solo backed by Muhammad Ali’s strong drumming. “All Love” is quite beautiful, with Ayler playing tenor with great restraint and excellent accompaniment from Bobby Few on piano, and a strong bowed bass solo from Stafford James. "Toiling" is the polar opposite, going into R&B territory with funky guitar and piano setting the stage for Ayler's strong blues drenched saxophone. “Desert Blood” starts strong with ripe saxophone, but then goes off the rails with a overwrought vocal duet for Ayler and Parks before pulling it back together for some fine sax at the end. Ripe potent tenor saxophone opens “The Birth of Mirth” building in strength and power over deep piano comping. “Water Music” has a melancholy feel with bowed bass and poignant piano under Ayler’s plangent saxophone. It’s a haunting reminder of the power of his music. The Impulse! Recordings of Albert Ayler are ripe for re-appraisal. The Greenwich Village recordings at the beginning of his tenure with the label are justly praised, but all of his albums for the label show a man who was always on a quest: for new sounds, new meaning and new ways of connecting. Love Cry/The Last Album -

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