Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Albert Ayler: At Slugs’ Saloon 1966 Revisited


Albert Ayler: At Slugs’ Saloon 1966 Revisited


Sign in to view read count
Albert Ayler: At Slugs’ Saloon 1966 Revisited
With Albert Ayler it has seemingly always been "what If." What if he had survived that plunge to his death in the East River in 1970? Setting aside the question of whether he was murdered or committed suicide, how would he have altered the course of music if he lived beyond those 34 years? At the time of his passing he had fueled a revolution both in America and Europe for free jazz. Let's not fail to remember that his freedom was not nihilism; Ayler built his musical vocabulary on spirituals, military marches, anthems and rhythm & blues. Late in his very brief recording career (of just eight years) he would adopt more of the counter-culture hippie and psychedelic rock sounds under the influence of his partner and manager Mary Parks, aka Mary Maria.

The question remains, where was he going? The answer may come both from his contemporaries and the subsequent free jazz generation. Ayler, like his confrères Peter Brötzmann, Pharoah Sanders, Bengt Nordstrom, Marion Brown,Joe McPhee, Archie Shepp, and Marion Brown, pushed the traditions of creative music into new territories. Those domains have been expanded further today by artists such as Mats Gustafsson, Paul Flaherty, Ivo Perelman (search for his out-of-print recording Live (Zero In, 1997) with William Parker and Rashied Ali), and the Ayler disciples Mars Williams and Jeff Lederer.

With Ayler's quintet date at Slugs Saloon we have the source material that most free jazz musicians reference today. This Ayler reissue is the eighth from the ezz-thetics label. It continues the work Werner X. Uehlinger began with his various labels hat ART, Hat Hut, and hatOLGY, preserving Ayler's music and licensing it from the Ayler estate.

This live recording from 1966 reunited Ayler with his brother Donald Ayler (trumpet) and added bassist Lewis Worrell, drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, and violinist Michel Sampson, who would travel to Europe with the saxophonist and brother Donald for a brief tour. Although the music has been released several times in the past, this remastered version is quite vibrant. The energy is palpable and ultimately undeniable. These might be the definitive versions of "Truth is Marching In," "Our Prayer," "Bells," and "Ghosts," but let us leave that argument to his loyal fans. We may never know where Albert Ayler was ultimately going, but this recording points us in the general direction.

Track Listing

Truth Is Marching In; Our Prayer; Bells; Ghost; Initiation.


Albert Ayler
saxophone, tenor
Donald Ayler
Lewis Worrell
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: At Slugs’ Saloon 1966 Revisited | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Ezz-thetics



For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.


Strictly Smokin' & Friends
Strictly Smokin' Big Band
Chick Corea and Bela Fleck
Andrea Grossi Blend 3 + Jim Black
Art Of Art
Art Pepper


Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.