Sunday, February 16, 2020

Albert Ayler Trio - 1964: Prophecy Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2020)

Recorded at the Cellar Cafe in New York City in June of 1964, the music presented here is simply devastating, with the trio of Albert Ayler on tenor tenor saxophone, Gary Peacock on bass and Sunny Murray on drums providing a foundational text that would go on to influence generations of musicians. This was originally released as a single LP in 1975 and according to Brian Olewnick's excellent liner notes, but Murray wasn't happy with that album, and had higher quality recordings of his own that eventually became this album with the full approval of the Ayler estate. Regardless, the music is otherworldly, and one can only imagine what it must have sounded like to listeners at the time. Ayler is playing his repertoire of themes that he stuck to for the majority of his career, short simple motifs that echoed early jazz, deep blues and speaking in tongues type spirituality. These themes are not only memorable but they also offered the best springboards for launching the band into the kind of unfettered free jazz that they were best known for. The group has amazing stamina, playing at their highest level for over and hour and a quarter on three versions of the extraordinary “Ghosts” where Ayler not only takes the memorable thematic statement and derives two different versions of the song as well as a reprise, but is able to build different improvisations from each performance of the song, with the theme providing just enough guidance for the group to take off and explore different dimensions each time. The trio plays together beautifully throughout the concert, with Peacock deftly moving between bowing and plucking the bass in a virtuoso manner and Murray’s drumming seemingly everywhere at once, but never overwhelming the music, proving that it isn’t just brute force that drives a free jazz band but empathy and generosity as well. Further proof can be found during their performances “Wizard” (twice) and “Spirits.” Where Ayler’s yearning and haunting control over his horn allows the music to take on a unique feeling, as the tempos become faster and the musicians converse on protean collective improvisations. This is a very special disc, presenting all of the music recorded that evening except for one track excised due to time constraints. The mastering is excellent giving the music a very immediate and visceral sound that perfectly matches the contents. 1964: Prophecy Revisited - Squidco

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