Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Holy Ghost Speaks - Chapter 8

Cracking open the sacred Holy Ghost Box set I find myself pouring disc 8 into open ears. Here Albert Ayler speaks as the final two discs of this collection present interviews from different periods of his life. Here Ayler spells out with traces of bewilderment an autobiographical explanation of his artistic sensibility in two brief interviews in Copenhagen, Denmark (1964 and 1966) and one long one in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France in 1970.

The most striking thing, for me, is the pervasive sense of isolation Ayler expresses at pursuing an honest musical sensibility in the face of a hostile cultural reception. Particularly poignant are the episodes when his own mother cannot recognize what Ayler is doing to the degree that she can no longer recognize Ayler as her own child. The pain of this experience feels fresh in the delivery of this account.

It was also interesting to hear how his experiences in playing in the army made it clear to Ayler that he would find more sympathetic ears in Europe (particularly in Sweden). Even through the pervasive artistic and spiritual isolation Ayler was constantly seeking out sympathetic souls and ears. And hearing accounts of playing with John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Cecil Taylor and Sonny Murray is a fantastic documentation of this period of creative explosion in jazz improvisation. These sympathetic minds that encouraged Ayler's music as they pursued similar journeys of their own. Ayler refers to Charles Ives as "the greatest American composer." This is still true half a century later. I can see why this artist continues to resonate to this day.

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