Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Albert Ayler Quintet 1966 - Berlin, Lorrach, Paris and Stockholm. Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2021)

Saxophonist Albert Ayler was at the height of his powers in late 1966, with this European tour inaugurating a series of epochal live performances that would continue into the following year in New York City. In the LP era, Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village only gave a hint of what was happening, but in the fifty plus years hence, labels like Impulse, HatHut and ezz-thetics have filled in the story: Ayler was leading one of the most exciting and influential bands of the era. This two disc collection combines two previous HatHut releases, tracing the band: Ayler on tenor saxophone, his brother Donald Ayler on trumpet, Michael Samson on violin, William Fowell on bass and Beaver Harris on drums during a ten day, four city concert tour. The music played on the tour is made up of some of Ayler's best known themes; he deeply mined blues, gospel and martial music melding it with searing sections of free improvisation. The music on this album is taken from radio broadcasts, and remains clear and well mastered, allowing you to hear the band's long takeoff on "The Truth is Marching In" from Berlin, which they would tease it again wrapping the song into a medley with "Our Prayer." The band's ability to weave these themes together makes the music even more powerful, like ending the concert with and epic melding of "Ghosts>Bells." The group leads off their Paris appearance with another lengthy performance of "Bells" and a closing version of "The Truth is Marching In." Both of these performances demonstrate what a powerful force the band had become, and Samson was a key addition, his swirling and keening violin fitting in perfectly between the soaring saxophone and trumpet, pushing their collective improvisations to lofty new heights. Their Paris performance is enveloped by an epic spiritual based medley, "Spiritual Rebirth>Light in the Darkness>Infinite Spirit" which combines the grittiness of the sanctified church with with virtuosity of post-modern jazz improvisation. Stockholm is the final concert on this album, and the group branches out on “Infinite Spirit/Japan” which is an interesting medley: the group has previously mined American folk and gospel, this branches out into an Asian theme which has a great delicate sound. Hitching “Our Prayer” to familiar Ayler themes like "Bells" and “The Truth is Marching In” also works really well, combining accessible melodies with fierce improvisations. One can only imagine what the audience thought of music of such concentrated courage and freedom. Ayler's artistry was unique, fearless, flying perilously close to the sun. There is an abundance of theme and melody amid the euphoric improvisation, showing that the band was capable of whatever they set their mind to. Berlin, Lorrach, Paris and Stockholm. Revisited - Squidco

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