Monday, January 24, 2022

Albert Ayler - La Cave Live, Cleveland 1966 Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

Tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler was still at the top of his game April 1966 when he returned to his hometown of Cleveland, and fortunately on two nights his group was recorded in surprisingly good fidelity in a local club. This music was originally released on the spectacular Holy Ghost boxed set, and it is nicely re-mastered here. In addition to Albert Ayler, there is a storming band consisting of Donald Ayler on trumpet, Frank Wright on tenor saxophone (disc two only), Michel Samson on violin, Mutawef A. Shaheed (Clyde Shy) on bass and Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums. Both of the discs cover much of Ayler's well known holly rolling repertoire of the time, but the group's all or nothing approach to improvisation makes every performance unique. The first disc leads off with prime Ayler on "Spirits Rejoice," a folk like theme that he would revisit many times over the course of his career. The group strings fascinating medleys together like "Prophet/Ghosts/Spiritual Bells" where the saxophone and trumpet lock into some otherworldly brotherly mind meld. There is a particularly raw version with a marching band like feel and some nice textures from the violin, and their direct interplay with one another has everybody charging into raucous free interplay. The violin's solo is creating swirling and ethereal textures along side the horns and rhythm on "Untitled/The Truth is Marching In." This is erupts into a tearing Ayler solo, where he is all over the high register of the horn as they delve into the ecstatic theme, with Ayler and the violin duetting before another tenor blastoff and a return to the theme, creating a truly impressive performance. The ecstatic saxophonist Frank Wright ups the ante even further, with the abetted band playing "Bells", "Spiritual Bells" and "Untitled (F# Tune)" with intense fervor. "Untitled (F# Tune)" returns at the end of the album, Ayler plays in a burly but not overblown fashion, with the familiar theme "Our Prayer" bringing back the full band on a gospelish theme. Ayler's most indelible theme, "Ghosts" closes the album and this version is taken at a much faster pace and is more full-bodied with the larger group than the well known version on the Spiritual Unity LP. The pace picks up and settles and then picks back up again to an impossibly ferocious level with heavy drums underpinning intense squalls from the horns. This was a very impressive collection, the group shows  great stamina and endurance the ferocity of the playing. Ayler was leading one of his finest groups and was clearly heading toward a career peak that would be captured in his early recordings for Impulse Records. La Cave Live, Cleveland 1966 Revisited - Squidco

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