Friday, February 04, 2005

Tuned in to the Holy Ghost - Chapter 5

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost Box Set - Disc 5 Posted by Hello

Black History Month is marching in and so is the Holy Ghost experience as I take a focused listen to disc 5 of this reverently presented and restored collection of rare and obscure recordings by Albert Ayler.

I've been trying to think of when I first became aware of Albert Ayler. His all-too brief period of creative activity ended before I was born and I'm embarrassed to admit that it took a conversation with Anthony Braxton to draw my attention to this enormously important figure of the 1960's avant garde. With ears full of Ayler's confident voice it's hard to imagine not knowing his incredible range and deeply influential ideas.

Disc 5 continues to present the 1966 incarnation of the Albert Ayler Quintet found on the previous two discs (with a different rhythm section on these particular recordings). The first set is from November in Berlin, Germany and the second is five days later in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

The first thing I notice with disc 5 is the recording quality. It takes a moment to adjust to the sound of the decaying analog tape... but only a moment as the content makes clear the value of restoring this particular performance document. The immeasurably appealing combination of Donald Ayler on trumpet, Michel Sampson on violin and Albert Ayler on tenor and soprano sax from the Cleveland material earlier in the box set are back with even more chemistry.

Nearly all of Ayler's signature tunes are found on this disc. The Rotterdam version of "Truth Is Marching In" is possibly the best I've heard it played. The Berlin version of "Omega" is also exquisitely represented with this take.

Sampson has a great dynamic range for these sets that allows him to forcefully take a lead solo as well as add some great texture during his deftly creative accompaniment roles. The arco playing of Bill Folwell on bass compliments Sampson's sawing on the violin well (especially on "Bells").

High praise is in order for Revenant Records for the new standard they set for presentation. Albert Ayler was long overdue for a compilation of this magnitude and Holy Ghost is the most lovingly crafted and respectful collection I've seen for any composer or performer. The spirit and hard-fought voice of this visionary is well served and the scholarly essays are much appreciated.

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