Thursday, November 12, 2020

Albert Ayler - Spirits Rejoice and Bells Revisited (ezz-thetics Records, 2020)

Ezz-thetics Records continues their excellent work remastering and reissuing the music of the great avant-garde saxophonist Albert Ayler. This disc presents two sessions from 1965, Bells and Spirits Rejoice, both originally released on ESP Records. Ayler was coming off of the album which would become recognized as his masterpiece, 1964’s Spiritual Unity, and he carried the carried that stunningly unique, personal and passionate approach to these deeply moving recordings. “Bells” is one of Ayler’s finest moments, recorded at Town Hall in New York City on May 1, 1965. In this concert, Ayler was accompanied by his brother Donald Ayler on trumpet, Charles Tyler on alto saxophone, Lewis Worrell on bass and Sunny Murray on drums. Originally released as a single sided LP, he is building a larger group from the music that recorded the year before. Like much of Ayler’s music, “Bells” develops short, memorable themes throughout their performance with hints of folk sounds and spirituality. Over the course of nineteen minutes they take theme and variations into progressively freer territory until the group breaks free of any bounds and develop a collective improvisation that is ferocious and thrilling to hear, integrating solo sections with full band performances. On the Spirits Rejoice session, Ayler kept the expanded six piece format, this time with two basses (a configuration that John Coltrane was also experimenting with at this time) mixing plucked and bowed sounds that add to the texture of the music. Recorded at Judson Hall in New York without an audience, the band consists of Donald Ayler on trumpet, Charles Tyler on alto saxophone, Henry Grimes and Gary Peacock on bass, Sunny Murray on drums and Call Cobbs guesting on harpsichord for one track. This album concentrates and consolidates the power that the larger group ad discovered during the recording of “Bells.” The key track here is “Prophet” where the band tears into a ferocious collectively improvised area that has everyone soaring and looking to really make a breakthrough in thrilling fashion as Ayler’s saxophone is alternately majestic and caustic, and the two bassists and drummers get a section for wonderfully abstract interplay along the way. This is a great disc, the music is remastered very well, sounding as best as possible and comes with a fine liner essay putting the music into historical context. Albert Ayler is at his peak in these recordings, and fans of free jazz should definitely investigate them. Spirits Rejoice and Bells Revisited - Squidco

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