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Albert Ayler: At Slugs’ Saloon 1966 Revisited

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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.

Personnel

Albert Ayler: saxophone, tenor; Donald Ayler: trumpet; Michel Samson: violin; Lewis Worrell: bass, acoustic; Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums.

Album information

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

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