And if you like jug band music, why not try out this avant-garde jazz? Seriously. It has the same freewheeling spirit, the same abundant joy and chaos. I chanced upon Albert Ayler when I found the 9-CD box set “Holy Ghost” by Revenant. I listened and I was totally blown away. Here was this music that was totally challenging and avant-garde, yet totally beautiful and spiritual. His music sounds like a marching band that has travelled to the future, become enlightened, and then forgotten all about it as they stumble back into the 60s, all screaming ecstasy in different tongues. Sometimes these tongues are harmonious, sometimes dissonant. Sometimes in time with each other, sometimes unhinged and flying in different directions. But always free, soulful, and beautiful. Not pretty. Beautiful. There’s a difference.
Of all the musical geniuses who died in the prime of their life, Albert Ayler is perhaps the most like Icarus. With one subtle difference: Ayler made it to the sun.
“By 1958, Albert Ayler and his horn had made some rounds: from boy prodigy to teenage member of Little Walter’s Blues Band, from “Little Bird” of Cleveland to featured US Army Band soloist. Then he resolutely set out to forget everything he’d ever learned about how to properly play the sax so that he could really PLAY it — unhinged, free from strictures of pitch and form, drawing on spirituals, folksong, marches, and other big whopping chunks of collective musical memory — to channel symphonies to God out his horn.
Seeking nothing short of Truth in music, Albert Ayler became THE catalytic force in defining the sound of the tenor in Free Jazz, and was a heavy influence on John Coltrane’s later work.” –Revenant
Biography by Scott Yanow
One of the giants of free jazz, Albert Ayler was also one of the most controversial. His huge tone and wide vibrato were difficult to ignore, and his 1966 group sounded like a runaway New Orleans brass band from 1910.
Unlike John Coltrane or Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler was not a virtuoso who had come up through the bebop ranks. His first musical jobs were in R&B bands, including one led by Little Walter, although oddly enough he was nicknamed “Little Bird” in his early days because of a similarity in sound on alto to Charlie Parker. During his period in the army (1958-1961), he played in a service band and switched to tenor. Unable to find work in the U.S. after his discharge due to his uncompromising style, Ayler spent time in Sweden and Denmark during 1962-1963, making his first recordings (which reveal a tone with roots in Sonny Rollins) and working a bit with Cecil Taylor. Ayler’s prime period was during 1964-1967. In 1964, he toured Europe with a quartet that included Don Cherry and was generally quite free and emotional. The following year he had a new band with his brother Donald Ayler on trumpet and Charles Tyler on baritone, and the emphasis in his music began to change. Folk melodies (which had been utilized a bit with Cherry) had a more dominant role, as did collective improvisation, and yet, despite the use of spaced-out marches, Irish jigs, and brass band fanfares, tonally Ayler remained quite free. His ESP recordings from this era and his first couple of Impulse records find Ayler at his peak and were influential; John Coltrane’s post-1964 playing was definitely affected by Ayler’s innovations.
However, during his last couple of years, Albert Ayler’s career seemed to become a bit aimless and his final Impulse sessions, although experimental (with the use of vocals, rock guitar, and R&B-ish tunes), were at best mixed successes. A 1970 live concert that was documented features him back in top form, but in November 1970, Ayler was found drowned in New York’s East River under mysterious circumstances.
Review by Al Campbell:
From the time he was signed to Impulse in 1966, it was assumed that Albert Ayler’s releases on that label would be motivated by an attempt at commercialism. While the music was toned down from his earlier ESP recordings, by no means did Ayler ever make commercial records. Much in the same way John Coltrane’s later-period Impulse releases weren’t commercial, Ayler simply took advantage of a larger record company’s distribution, trying to expose the music to more people. Ayler’s uncompromising musical freedom mixed with his catchy combination of nursery rhythms and brass band marches remained prominent on Love Cry. The interplay between the Ayler brothers also remained fiery as younger sibling Donald is heard playing trumpet for the last time on a recording with his brother. Donald was fired from the band (at the suggestion of Impulse) and, unfortunately, was committed to a mental institution for a short stay after these sessions were made. The rhythm section of Alan Silva on bass and Milford Graves on drums continually instigates and propels this music into furious militaristic march territory. Unhappily, the four tracks in which Call Cobbs is featured on harpsichord tend to drag the music down; it’s unfortunate his gospel-inspired piano or organ playing couldn’t have been utilized instead. The CD reissue contains alternate takes of “Zion Hill” and “Universal Indians.”
Albert Ayler – Love Cry
catch that band!
mp3 192kbps | w/ cover | 74mb
ayler.org – bio, disco, music, stories, etc etc
Revenant Records: Albert Ayler – Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1962-70)