Monday, July 30, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Get Out of La Cave, Find Some New Grass and Get Your Freak In

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [box set] - disc 3. 2004. Revenant Records: RVN 213.

Albert Ayler Quintet - April 16 & 17, 1966 @ La Cave, Cleveland, Ohio.
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Ayler: trumpet
Michel Samson: violin
Mutawef Shaheed (a.k.a. Clyde Shy): bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums

For all the liberties of his free improvisations and hot intensity of his tenor screams, Albert Ayler had a strong melodic sensibility that was - and is - well beyond the polite niceties of a "good tune." His melodies well up from an unflinching pursuit of artistic truth. With the steady presence and accompaniment from Michel Samson on violin (frustratingly just off-mic) and brother Don Ayler on trumpet this quintet plays some scorching sets in this Cleveland recording. With an understanding of spirituality as an uncompromising pursuit of artistic integrity - as opposed to the watered-down version of "calming" and "comforting" offered by more marketing/entertainment oriented flavors of "spiritualism" stripped clean of all intensity - Albert Ayler recorded a body of work and composed a core set of melodies and an improvisational approach worthy of study and immersion. The rawness of his music is a rare tonic and his melodic core is apparent on this disc in particular.

Albert Ayler: New Grass. 1968. Re-released in 2005. Impulse: A-9175.

Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone, whistling, vocals
Bill Folwell: electric bass
Burt Collins: trumpet
Joe Newman: trumpet
Garnett Brown: trombone
Seldon Powell: flute
Buddy Lucas: baritone saxophone
Bert DeCoteaux: conductor, arranger
Call Cobbs: electric harpsichord, piano, organ
Bernard Purdie: drums
Rose Marie McCoy: vocals
Mary Maria Parks: vocals

This one is the infamous R&B album that marked an odd departure for free jazz messiah Albert Ayler. Ayler even comes in toward the end of the opening track with a spoken plea to give this record a chance, probably recognizing just how difficult it would be for many of his supporters to accept his creative departure. I'm giving it a spin and a chance today and it's... well... um... it's less than I'd hoped for. The tenor playing is there, and it has all the intensity one looks for in Ayler. It's disconcerting to hear it up against a lock-step groove from this rhythm section. It sounds particularly mismatched against "New Ghosts," one of the great Ayler melodies that manages to soar even as it is caged within the inflexible 2 and 4 beat of a bass and drums that's a far cry from Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray. I don't hold it against any artist who takes such creative risks - particularly in light of the brilliant Love Cry that he recorded one year prior to this effort.

Dave Douglas: Freak In. 2003. RCA/Victor: 09026-64008-2.

Dave Douglas: trumpet, keyboards, voice
Jamie Saft: keyboards, loops, programming
Marc Ribot: electric guitar
Karsh Kale: tabla, additional drums
Joey Baron: drums
Romero Lubambo: acoustic guitar
Brad Jones: Ampeg baby bass, acoustic bass
Ikue Mori: electronic percussion
Seamus Blake: saxophone
Chris Speed: saxophone, clarinet
Craig Taborn: fender rhodes
Michael Sarin: drums

After having the crazy groove of "The Great Schism" running through my mind for several days now it was time to get a full Freak In and put this great Dave Douglas disc on. I've always loved this one, and now more so after another listen. There's so much running through this set of Douglas originals as he turns the creative talents of these players loose for a surprisingly coherent collision of styles and electronic textures. This one is part DJ, part studio shenanigans and yet there's plenty of focused improvisational energy. There's also multiple threads of great melodic lines and inspired arrangements buried underneath all the irresistible grooves and textures. I did manage to catch the Freak In tour and found that everything that makes it a great release carries over into live performance as well. Freak In is a reminder of how artificial the barriers between genres and styles are.

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