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27 August 2009

Albert Ayler - 'Lörrach/Paris 1966' (Hat)

There are bands and there are great bands and there are bands that literally shred everything that came before them and churn it into some new musical buttersoupmelée and marry that to the some incredible fifth dimensional soundwaves that simultaenously occupy all of time and space and whatever comes after. So here's the Underbite Hyperbolé in action again, because wasn't I saying such great things one or two mere posts ago about the classic Ayler/Peacock/Murray trio? Well yes, that's all well and fine and earthshattering in a certain way, but for me, the band from '66-67 with Don Ayler and Michael Sampson is the one that blows it all apart for me. When you drop the needle on 'Bells', side one track one from the 33rpm Lörrach platter, the air you breathe takes on a shiny new curved dimension and your bones literally throb with excitement and energy. Or at least mine do. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the strings because they give everything a very, I dunno, regal quality, like this is something truly triumphant and celebratory. Or maybe it's that it just took Albert a few more years to explode like this, and the synergy created by his brother is what allowed that to happen - I mean, it's not like Sunny Murray was ever holding anyone back -- but pure freedom isn't what I listen for in Albert Ayler's music. Or maybe it's got something to do with the fidelity of these live recordings - and of the Impulse! discs from Greenwich Village that come next on the CD blog. These recordings are so rich that every note can sing. The moments of utter cacophony are so clear and righteous that even the most conservative jazz listener would have to admit there's something magical there. And the craziest thing of all is that they're mono! (Or maybe that's exactly why). 'Our Prayer' is religious music that'll make anyone melt into a blubbering mess no matter how much you've tried to excommunicate yourself. The 45rpm Paris platter has two versions of 'Ghosts' on one side (though titled in the singular 'Ghost' here, certainly not a foreshadowing of the 1990 Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore vehicle) and even though we've heard this tune few times now we haven't even begun to get sick of it. Each one is different than the last; you could play 'Ghosts' a million times and never tire of finding ways to breathe life into it. The goofy military march at the end of the second version here is a good segue into side D's 'Holy Family', which occasionally breaks down into neoclassical madness with William Folwell and Sampson providing a thick bed of strings for Albert's suddenly aggressive vibrato to rage against. No one ever says that Don Ayler is a great trumpet player and that always gets my hackles up - sure, he lacks the technical ability and versatility of a Lester Bowie, but I don't believe that anyone ever clicked with Albert better. Blood is thicker than water I guess and there's a serious mindmeld that can only come from sharing DNA. You can try to do an analytical breakdown of why this music is so communicative (for example, the tempo slowdowns I think lend a hell of a lot of gravitas to it) but I think that picks apart the moment, which should just be experienced. Or maybe this leads to deification at the expensive of independent thought. If Ayler had lived and made competent-to-passable records into the 90s (like McCoy Tyner or somebody equivalent) would we still hear the magic and fire in this? I say yes, although I realise my own enthusiasm is furthering the myth a bit, but deservedly so if you ask me. The only real question for me is what's better - this record or the Greenwich Village discs? And does it even matter, because I'm lucky enough to be able to listen to both of them, any time I'd like.

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