Recently, a major motion picture studio remade the 1967 animation classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, starring the voice of Boris Karloff. You might remember the animated cartoon was based on the book of the same name by Dr. Seuss. The 21st century's computer-animation is an abomination, an insult to our childhood innocence, just as the Jim Carrey film from 2000 was. Now, before you take up arms or plan an Occupy Wall Street demonstration, I'm here to tell you that jazz, in the form of a man from Mars, has come to save Christmas. Actually, a man named Mars.
Saxophonist Mars Williams released An Ayler Xmas (Soul What Records, 2017) and is back with Volume 2 this year. Albert Ayler and Christmas music. The mash-up works, just like cranberry sauce and turkey. Recorded live in Chicago with his Ayler tribute band Witches And Devils and in Vienna with an Austrian band that includes Christof Kurzmann (Orchestra 33 1/3, Made To Break) and Didi Kern (Mats Gustafsson and DEK Trio). The music sizzles with nostalgia for the innocence of youth, both the lost naiveté of holidays past and the origins of free jazz.
Just as Albert Ayler could resurrect "La Marseillaise" sans irony, Williams performs "Carol Of The Drum," or as you might know it, "The Little Drummer Boy." Both musicians never met a march they didn't like. Josh Berman's cornet sits in for Donald Ayler and Fred Lonberg-Holm's cello for Michel Sampson's violin. And yes, there are Ayler flights of sound as the performance explodes in "Bells" or "Love Cry," which encircles "Christmas Wrapping," a song Williams recorded with the post-punk/new wave band The Waitresses in 1981. The entire recording shouts (metaphorically) "Joy To The World."
Xmas Medley; O Tannenbaum/Spirits/12 Days Of Christmas; Love Cry/Christmas Wrapping; Carol Of The Drum/Bells/O
Come Emmanuel/Joy To The World; Universal Indians/We Wish You A Merry Xmas.
Chicago band Witches & Devils: Mars Williams: saxophones, toy instruments; Josh Berman: cornet; Fred Lonberg-
Holm: cello; Jim Baker: piano, viola, arp synth; Kent Kessler: bass; Brian Sandstrom: bass, guitar, trumpet; Steve Hunt:
drums; Vienna band: Mars Williams: saxophones, toy instruments; Thomas Berghammer: trumpet; Hermann
Stangassinger: bass; Didi Kern: drums, percussion; Christof Kurzmann: Lloopp, vocals.