Gary

Albert Ayler

142 posts in this topic

After the Albert Ayler new box set thread appeared & the Hal Russell CD was nominated for CD of the week with the track 'Ayler Songs' , I got the urge to put on some Ayler Cds & have a bit of a hunt around the web for all things Ayler .

I found this cracking site

http://www.ayler.supanet.com/

with everything you need to know about the dicography etc , this site lead to thishttp://www.geocities.com/jeff_l_schwartz/ayler.html

this appears to be a book about Albert & his music - I'm currently making my way through this,its very interesting - i have 'As serious as your life' on my bookshelf its currently jumping its place in the queue to next read status.

Inevitably all this Ayler activity has led me to play of the Cds i have & i've ordered a couple more.

The first album i bought was after some recommendations on the old blue note board

spirej1.jpg

its still my favourite. I remember thinking 'I've never heard anything like this ' when listening to it for the first time.

Do any board members have any memories / thoughts on Albert they would like to share ? Did anybody see him in concert (stand up JohnS).

Could any of the senior members of the board remember the reaction to Albert & his music at the time ?

Thanks in advance .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Charles Tyler told me he and Ayler lived together in NY for a while. John Coltrane would come by and pay the rent.

Charles called him Al.

Edited by Chuck Nessa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My first Ayler album, as I'm guessing it was for many, was Spiritual Unity. When I was waiting tables, I used to play a tape of that recording in my car on the way to, and on the way back, from work. Somehow it always helped me have the willpower to work in the food service, and then decompress from it after a long shift. I gave a ride home to one of the bussers one night, played the tape, and he said, "What the Hell is this?" I said, "Albert Ayler." He didn't say anything for a moment, concentrated his stare at the cassette deck, and then finally offered, "Dude, this rocks!"

Other favorite Ayler albums of mine are Ghosts and Spirits.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ayler was such an amazing saxophonist! Yes, he was a visionary with a new concept, yes he was so very different from most in his performances, but from the start what I was knocked back reeling from was his astonishing technique on the saxophone, the huge sound, the kaliedoscopic range of his notes all played with confidence and command.

When I read comments that he was a primitive player, or didn't know how to play the horn I think "what a crock!"

More and more as time goes by his music means more and more to my listening and thinking world. I'm really looking forward to the Revenant, when it is out and when I can afford it. And the Jeff Scwartz piece is a marvelous aid to listening to Ayler; I wish I had more like that, much more, to read. I've heard nearly all the official recordings (still need to get the earliest sessions and The Last Album) and a lot of the unofficial ones. . . . There's so much to explore in all of his work; each time you encounter it it seems to speak to you anew!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think he is a great player - and, maybe, the most controversial figure in Jazz - In that most people don't like his stuff at all. And there's a substantial vein of thought that asserts that he played chaos. That vein basically says he's where (or archetypally represents where) Jazz went wrong.

There's a tremendous sense of life in Ayler. And, actually that is what he was trying to articulate in his music (see the Hentoff interview). His conceptions basically come out of the Christian church. He's kind of like a medieval mystic, only playing the saxophone in the 1960s! That is he was trying to get down to the elemental sources of the soul in Man. And I think he did it...

Anyway...One of these days I'm going to try and write up my ideas...

Simon Weil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The last printed issue of All About Jazz paper has an interview with Sunny Murray. Some of it is about Ayler [and Cecil Taylor].

Can't vouch for Murray's veracity, but he's a colorful subject to interview, for sure.

As we say in Russian, "He doesn't need to look for words in his pockets".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now that's a great expression! (A great expression which fits many of us here!)

I'll agree with the remarks about Ayler being mystical, spiritual. . . I really feel that in the music, the fervant, ecstatic attempt to express the intangible and the universal spirit. . . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Albert, sounds better and better thru the years! Huge sound (Although Yusef Lateef probably had the largest Tenor sound of anyone)

First heard him with Cecil, and then on and on, with his own bands, with Ornette, with Trane and up until a couple of weeks before he died, saw him on the street in Brooklyn.

Loved the records with Cherry because Don was such a perfect compliment, and because Gary Peacock is, well, Gary Peacock.

Never liked Don Ayler even though it was exciting, like an incredible 65 gig at Slugs'. The 'Rock' thing was abysmal.

Last live I heard, with Jumma Santos and Robert Smith, Albert for some reason reminded me of Prez.

Albert played with Paul Bley, with John Gilmore, Gary and Paul Motian at this place Take 6. They used to take home a dollar a night each! On weekends, they might get 5 buck a man.

Bob James loved Albert's music, thought that Spiritual Unity was one of the all time great Jazz records.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Heard Ayler sit in with the Tchicai-Rudd Quartet (probably with Louis Worrell and Milford Graves) in, I think, spring 1966 (in effect, the "New York Eye and Ear Control" band without Don Cherry) in a loft above the Vanguard. Hope I never forget what the sheer size of Ayler's sound felt like; it came up through the soles of your feet and went out through the hair on your head. It was huge, but I wouldn't call it loud because it needed to be that size for genuine musical reasons--to bring all those overtones to life, for one. Only thing I've ever heard like it is Roscoe Mitchell in full flight, though Mitchell is Mitchell and Ayler is Ayler.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I heard Albert Ayler live once - early 1968 in Buffalo, N.Y. The group consisted of Albert, his brother Don, Call Cobbs, Junie Booth, and Milford Graves - except for Booth, the same group that recorded Love Cry. They only played for an hour, as their plane from New York was forced to land in Rochester because of snow, and they arrived late. Another concert was scheduled in the hall that evening so their time was cut short. Unfortunately, they seemed to be warmed up and just getting into it when the concert ended. Love Cry wasn't issued until a month or two later, but when I heard it, some of the tunes seemed to have been performed at that concert. The only difference was, at the concert they were done as continuous medleys, not separated into individual tunes, as they are on the record. My guess is that presenting individual tunes on Love Cry was an attempt to appeal to a larger audience.

Hearing Albert Ayler play live was wonderful and unlike anything I'd ever heard, even though I already had a number of his records. He had a pure tone and, as others have noted, a large sound that went right through you.

As a footnote, I received an early lesson in not believing that media that day. I didn't speak with Albert, but I had a chance to talk with Milford Graves. The jazz press, specifically Down Beat, had given the impression that he was full of anger, so I was somewhat wary. When I spoke with him, however, he came across as a nice guy with a quiet, almost gentle, personality. I learned an important lesson - try and experience for yourself. Don't take what you read as gospel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gentlemen: I want to thank you for sharing your experiences!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember reading about the then-recent death of Albert Ayler in Downbeat. It sounded tragic .... and suspicious. I had heard of Ayler (he recorded on Trane's label) but had never heard his music.

A friend and I soon purchased two contrasting records; one was with Don Cherry (maybe "Ghosts") and the other was "Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe". "Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe" is a great, catchy sentiment that made sense to me, but I could never could get very close to the record. However, the music with Don Cherry made perfect sense to me right away. From there, I explored the ESPs and everything else by Albert Ayler that I could get my hands on.

I remember reading in the early '70s, in Downbeat probably, that Albert Ayler would be a "dead end" within the development of "jazz". They were already wrong, of course, and when critics started to praise David Murray and others whose playing alluded to Ayler's, such singling out of Ayler, anyway, was heard less often. Then all the '80s neocon neophytes came along and ...

I have been heartened by the positive recognition that Ayler has, often belatedly, received and am especially enjoying reading the anecdotes from folks who dug him while he was alive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I sure wish I would have seen Ayler live. My father took me to a good number of rock concerts in the 60s, but no jazz.

The first time I heard Ayler on record was in the mid-1970s. Some pseudo-intellectual documentary on the "counterculture" had as part of its soundtrack Ayler's "Sun Watcher." In fact, it may have only been the brief introduction to "Sun Watcher."

I was blown away. I had never heard a saxophone like that in my life. I caught Ayler's name and Sun Watcher in the credits and was off to the record store. I came back with the Impusle! 2-fer "The Best of the Impulse Years." Ayler has been a favorite of mine every since.

Ayler was like a modern-day Sidney Bechet. His vibrato was so extreme, yet controlled, that he could build solos not just of notes, but of sequential sound intervals.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Still lots of Ayler for me to experience, but I have so far really enjoyed the material I have heard - the Impulse! live 2 CD set from a few years back, NEW GRASS, and SPIRITUAL UNITY.

I don't really get why he's considered SO difficult and hard to take by so many. There's a rootsiness and universality to his music that I would think people would be able to tap into despite the dissonance and startling viscerality of some of his music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't recall any equivalent to the impact of hearing Albert Ayler's music live. The full blast of his (and his players') sound just about shattered the ears and had your mouth wide open in amazement. The impact was overwhelming. You loved it or you hated it. I loved it and wish I had heard him more often than on the two occasions I caught him live. The sheer volume (without any elaborate amplification) went beyong anything I had heard before or have heard since. And that music had everything: joy, melancholy, beauty. It was exhilarating. Instant mindtherapy.

First time I heard him was at the recording session for 'Spirits Rejoice' in September 1965. Two photos I took during the session are in the Bands Photos of the Ayler site mentioned earlier.

I was in New York at the time exploring the new music that was being produced there and met most of the musicians involved including Ayler.

I had caught the Ayler fever a few months before upon hearing 'Spiritual Unity' which heralded an unique new voice and then 'Bells' which was even more infectuous.

ESP's Bernard Stollman was a big help in locating many musicians. No problem locating Ayler since he and his brother Don were staying at Stollman's parents home on Riverside Drive at the time.

I talked at length with Albert Ayler at a party which was held shortly after the session. He had a lot of memories of his stay - when he was in the Army - in Orleans, France in 1960. He also mentioned traveling to Paris to jam at clubs whenever he could. I was pretty familiar with that scene but I had missed his appearances since I was a conscript in the French Army in Algeria at that time.

When the Ayler band played at the 1966 Paris Jazz Festival in 1966, I went to the hotel he and his band were staying to pick him up and head to the Salle Pleyel for the concert which is out now on the HatArt release.

The Paris audience reaction to Ayler's music was interesting. The whole audience was stunned. A number of people could not stand it and went vocal with their disapproval but it did not last very long. In fact most of the audience went wild.

Cecil Taylor was at the concert. He congratulated Ayler at length when they met after Ayler's appearance.

When Ayler appeared at the 'Nuits de la Fondation Maeght' concerts in Saint-Paul de Vence, on the French Riviera, in late July 1970 I tried to go there but could not leave Paris because of work commitments. And when Alain Corneau, a friend who turned into one of the most well-know French film directors, called me at my job from Nice airport after the concerts to ask if I could rush to Orly airport to help Ayler and his musicians through the airport to catch their plane home I had to tell him I just could not since I was in the middle of a very busy assignment. It still hurts when I remember I could not make it to the airport.

That was just four months before his death.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

WOW.

Thanks very much for these fantastic replies.

The knowledge & experience you guys have never cease to amaze me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brownie,

I recall an interview with Alain Corneau in Jazz Magazine where he said he had gone to New York in the mid-60s to film some musicians, including Ayler, but he did not get any footage of them. I think he did interview Bud Powell (who was living in a rat-hole) and filmed him.

Are you still in touch with Corneau? Do you know if he has any Bud footage?

Thanks in advance,

Bertrand.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bertrand, Corneau did not have film of Bud Powell. Corneau traveled with another friend Daniel Berger who took photos of Bud Powell in that rat-hole. Unless I'm wrong, the photos were published in the French edition of the Francis Paudras book on Bud Powell 'La Danse des Infideles'.

Corneau and Berger both hailed from Orleans and had met Ayler when he was stationed at the US Army base outside the city.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished listening to Ayler's Nuits de La Fondation Maeght, Vol. 1, and all of a sudden, it just struck me so powerfully -- the rendition of Spirits Rejoice is one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. Thanks Albert for your gift to the world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thought this is an interesting read, given our own Blind Fold Test. This comes from Jeff Schwartz biography of Ayler (Click here).

II.Blindfold Test responses to Albert Ayler's music

The blindfold test is a peculiar institution, promoted by Downbeat and critic Leonard Feather, in which records by unknown artists are played for someone, usually a famous musician, to elicit the truthful response that anonymity should encourage. It is quite common for the interviewee to embarrass him or herself by failing to recognize the work of friends, proclaimed influences, etc. During the late 1960's controversy regarding free jazz and Albert Ayler, his music was sometimes included to get the reactions of those who Feather considered "real jazz musicians" to this bizarre new music.

During his lifetime, 7 musicians heard Albert Ayler's music in the Downbeat blindfold test. While predominantly mainstream saxophonists, they also included players who were based in Coltrane's work: reedmen Sonny Simmons and Prince Lasha, and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. Here are their reactions, in chronological order.

Booker Ervin (regarding the 3-28-65 version of "Holy Ghost"):That was probably made in concert. It sounded like Albert Ayler, or somebody trying to imitate Albert Ayler. I've heard Albert Ayler play, and I've heard one record I really liked by him, The Spirits.

But this record I didn't particularly like because the music gave me no feeling of direction or anything. I heard no arrangement. I just heard guys running up and down their instruments and making sounds. I don't particularly like that. I don't have anything against avant-garde-I like some of it that is good, and I've heard Albert Ayler play some good avant-garde. I've heard Coltrane play some things that I liked with Pharaoh Sanders. But this thing, I couldn't make it.

I don't know whether this was Albert Ayler with his brother. I haven't heard his brother but once on a record. It sounded like Sunny Murray or someone trying to imitate Sunny Murray's playing. The bass player, he just sounded like he was running his fingers across the keys. There's got to be some sort of technique involved in what they're doing, which I know.

I didn't hear any form, but I have heard some of Albert Ayler's music which had some form to it-if that was Albert Ayler.

I like him as a person, he's a very beautiful cat. If that was him, I didn't like that at all. The music had no direction-not to me. I'd give it one star.

Oliver Nelson (on the same recording): Of course, that was a very highly charged performance. I suppose this-the kind of music I just heard-would be typical of the new wave or whatever. It might be considered the jazz that's replacing whatever it was that we were talking about with Basie a minute or so ago.

But I had a feeling that that must be a record that my producer must have produced-Bob Thiele-because I don't know of anybody else who is doing it.

There was little melodic organization, but toward the end they did something very startling. They played the melody--did you hear it? And they tried to play it in unison, and the ending was conventional.

I found the cello player good, bass player good. The drummer played some figures that reminded me of the drummer who used to play with Diz when he had his big band. In fact, the tune reminded me of "Salt Peanuts" a bit, and the drum thing-which I would imagine would be alien to the kind of music they were playing, because it was rhythmically stable.

If I have to object to anything about this music, it's mainly lacking in texture, and naturally I would feel that way, being an orchestrator and arranger. The same intensities are used. It's like using red, black, and maybe some other kind of crimson color related to red all the time, and not being aware that white or green or blue exist too.

As to form; well, everybody just plays. It was a live performance, and the audience seemed pleased. It's too early to say too much about this, because out of all this, ah, I guess you would call it chaos-out of it, somebody is going to have enough talent to integrate whatever is happening with this kind of music. It's almost like chance music, which a lot of composers in Europe and here are trying-where you don't limit a player to anything, and as a result, everyone plays.

I heard a group in Denmark last year, John Tchicai and the trombone player Roswell Rudd, and sometimes it happened and sometimes it didn't. But when it happened, it was marvelous. They started out with something, and it happened to be a good melodic idea, rhythmic idea, and they would elaborate on that, and after a while, they would get into things that sounded like, I guess... complete freedom but still related to an essential idea. John is one of the most mature players in this kind of music.

Give the cellist four stars, but I'd rather not rate the record as a whole.

James Moody (on "Our Prayer" 12-18-66 version): That sounded rather like "No Place Like Home" and that's where they should have been. I have no comment on that. I really don't understand it. Coltrane did so much with the chord thing, he knew his instrument, knew musically what was happening and he did it. Then he went to the so-called free form thing, and I could understand it because he went step by step, so I'd take it that he knew what he was doing. But a lot of other people are doing this, and I'd never heard them play before, except this new thing.

I guess I'm just old fashioned-I just like to swing and hear some changes in there. I'm busy trying to learn changes myself. I hadn't heard this record before, but I had heard the group before, playing at Trane's funeral, and I'm just a little bewildered. I'm not saying it's bad and I'm not saying it's good-I just don't understand it.

I wouldn't want to play like that, because I don't get anything from it. I can't give it any stars; I don't dig it.

Sonny Simmons and Prince Lasha (tested together) (on "Change Has Come," 2-26-67 version): Simmons-Well, there was no question about that. It was unquestionably Albert Ayler and his brother. I'm not familiar with all the personnel in the rhythm section, but I am acquainted with one of the bass players: Bill Fowler, I think his name is. I don't know the other bass player or the drummer-it's not Sonny Murray. Also the violin player, I think he's a European.

Overall I'd give them four stars for what they are doing, because I understand what they're doing.

Prince Lasha: Yes, I recognized Albert Ayler and his brother, and I'll follow along with that rating. It's the new music; they are trying to recapture the sounds that have been in the atmosphere for centuries, and are trying to utilize them. It takes quite a bit of concentration for them to organize and unite to come under that theocratic movement of music together. This is why I like the arrangements, the writing-and the violin also.

Jerome Richardson (on "Bells" 8-31-67 version): Well, what do you want me to say about that? It sounds like a club date tenor player trying to get into the jazz thing. I wonder what they were doing-I don't know whether they were trying to fool somebody or not. If that was their version of avant garde, they'd better do a little listening.

It held nothing for me. They were playing a little line together, and it sounded as though they were trying to see what they could do with the little line. It's true that some things of this type have come off, but I don't think that came off.

I haven't the slightest idea who it was. The tenor player, I could give a wild guess-I'd still guess it was Don Ellis' band again. I'll give it one star for effort.

Jean-Luc Ponty (on "Love Cry" 8-31-67): That, of course, is Albert Ayler. I don't remember the name of the tune, but I've already heard it on the radio in France. I like this one particularly. I don't like all the work of Albert Ayler, but I think he has much humor, and especially when I hear this tune, I enjoy it and it makes me happy.

Sometimes this music reminds me of when I was in a military band and we were joking (I played tenor sax then) playing military marches. Anyway, he took a hard direction. He is one of the rare musicians who broke all old tradition completely; harmony and structures. I'm speaking in general of this music.

On this particular track I like the sound-of Albert Ayler himself, of his brother on trumpet, and from the drummer and bassist too. I think it's a very good general sound of the group. Four stars.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great post Matthew - Thanks.

I've been playing the Complete Greenwich Village recordings recently - great stuff.

Now how long is it the till box set is out ?? :excited:

Edited by Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished listening to Ayler's Nuits de La Fondation Maeght, Vol. 1, and all of a sudden, it just struck me so powerfully -- the rendition of Spirits Rejoice is one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. Thanks Albert for your gift to the world.

I listened to the Maeght recording yesterday (the Water reissue). "Spirits Rejoice" is indeed a great piece of music!

I am very glad though the producer chose to omit most of the tracks with Ayler's then partner on vocals and soprane sax...

Matthew, thanks a lot for posting these excerpts! Funny to read! (But of course you almost always know more than the testee when reading old BFTs...)

Pity though they did not play more of Ayler's earlier (1964) records! I would have wondered how musicians did react to "Spiritual Unity", for instance, or to some recording with Don Cherry.

Anyone has new infos regarding the box set?

ubu

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've actually heard from someone who spoke with Stollman that the box set WON'T be coming out because as the estate's agent (I guess?) he's opposed to it.

That's bad news I hope is ultimately not going to be made true.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.