Thursday, October 08, 2020

Albert Ayler Quartet With Don Cherry - European Recordings Autumn 1964 Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2020)

Tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler toured Scandinavia in the autumn of 1964 at the peak of his powers and in the company of an all star band: Don Cherry on cornet, Gary Peacock on bass and Sunny Murray on drums. This two CD package contains tracks from Holland and Denmark as the group consolidates the triumphs of their spring and summer recordings of Spiritual Unity and New York Eye and Ear Control. "Angels" develops a yearning theme, using space as the horns separate and begin to free themselves while stoic bass and drums add stark peaks of sound. Peacock's bass is prominent, patiently filling the available space, including a fine solo, then the full band returns to the stark theme. A bit more punchy, "C.A.C." shows the full band jousting at a high speed, and Ayler developing furious circular motifs on his saxophone. The group roars into a complex full band collective improvisation that is quite fierce and loud, before coming to a dramatic full stop. The group leans into the well known "Ghosts" theme, with a potent smeared sounding improvisation from Ayler coming forth that is unique in sound and very effective, and Murray's ever shifting rhythm pushing him along. Cherry plays in a clearer and choppier fashion, locking in with Peacock's solid bass playing for an excellent feature. The bassist also gets plenty of solo space before the horns return to restate the melody and close out. "Infant Happiness" uses emotional sounding cries of sound as its theme, evolving into a free excursion with the horns integrating and communicating amid grounding bass and skittish drums. The horns combine in harmony, returning to the melody and then lay out for a bass and percussion interlude. A long open ended track, "Spirits" has moments of dynamic tension that rise and lead to a frenetic Ayler solo backed by bass and drums.  He uses the breadth of his instrument to make a very powerful statement, freely expressing himself in an awe inspiring way. Cherry follows in an equally unfettered manner, allowed ample opportunity to speak his piece over supportive bass and percussion. "Vibrations" is a strong melody, familiar from the Arista/Freedom release of the same name leading to inspired collective improvisation from the group, with everyone deeply engaged. The saxophone and trumpet are exhilarating together, with room filling bass and shapeshifting drums completing the scene. "Spirits" is a fast moving take, dropping theme quickly for sharply improvised section, with raw saxophone and patient bass levied by strong trumpet, repeating the theme and then blasting out on another short, caustic improvisatory quest. "Spirits" again, live club setting is interesting, Ayler doesn't hold back, pushing the narrative forward with Cherry alongside but Ayler is really in fire playing way up high and surging, seeking. Cherry playing in consort with the bass and drums with Ayler accents developing a unique approach and overall sound. Sharp ascending sounds on "Saints" keep the pace fast and hot with Murray's fierce drumming at full boil. Huge massive walls of grows are emitted by Ayler, they sound like nothing else, creating a stunningly artistic statement. This is Ayler at his best, in the crucible of constant creation. "Mothers" is amazing, with longer tones of saxophone, Ayler worrying at them, emitting wailing emotion that displays hurt, longing, pathos and the naked emotion is almost to hard to listen to at times. This is what people often miss when talking about Ayler, when they talk about on the speed and power of his playing when the haunting fragility and emotional honesty are just as important. Cherry pushes away from it with clearer but still serious sounding tones that take a step back from the brink. Building to a pulsating trumpet and saxophone blowout, "Children" uses dynamic playing throughout, leading to a very fast Ayler solo over storming bass and drums, building to a soaring high register flight, followed by a very short encore of "Spirits" brings everything full circle. This was an very good album, one that consolidates a lot of important and historic Ayler music. It illustrates what an excellent match he was with Don Cherry and gives a comprehensive view of their contribution to American free jazz. European Recordings Autumn 1964 Revisited -

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