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Golia / Josephson / Kaiser / Keneally / Morris / Smith / Walter: Healing Force: The Songs of Albert Ayler

Jerry D'Souza By

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Saxophonist Albert Ayler was a restless genius. He was a ferocious improviser, extreme in his innovations, uncompromising in his approach. He could blend free improvisation with gospel fervor, or with the harmonic concept of a marching band. He did it all with unmitigated passion that made him a revered musician.

Ayler was accused of selling out when he released Love Cry (1967), New Grass (1968) and Music is the Healing Force of the Universe (1969)—all on Impulse!—on which he returned to R&B and more thematic concepts. That decried the freedom that Ayler gave to himself to seek new directions. Now, forty years later, guitarist Henry Kaiser brings home the fact that there was a lot more on those albums than first thought, and that it was time to realize all the underlying ideas.

Kaiser brought together seven musicians who chose the songs that would be representative of Ayler's later work. All the selections are first takes, bringing to fruition the idea of the musicians letting the music play through them to make a powerful statement.

Reedman Vinny Golia gets right down to the bone, blowing up an unfettered cornucopia of sound. He is in Ayler mode until the mood is dispersed by the narrative of the band, which comes off as self-conscious and amateurish, like they are reciting by rote. Still, the underlying sentiment of being made universal beings through the power of the Creator is strongly present.

Music is the Healing Force of the Universe is the centrifugal force of the record. Golia spearheads the movement, finding dark alleys into which he injects his blistering horn. He is impelled by drummer Weasel Walter and bassist Damon Smith. The mood shifts, a clam tone brought in by the floating vocals of Aurora Josephson. She shades the timbre of her voice well to up the emotional balance. The light trance is abetted by piano and guitar, but the whole never settles. Restlessness and calm are the two sides of a vital perspective.

Oh! Love of Life has a pastoral air, a delightful melody that rejoices in song. Josephson once more fills in the emotional texture, her voice distilling a tangible yearning. Walter kicks the bass drum and accents the cymbals with a spry air, the guitar swerves and swings, and electrifies the structure into myriad free falling notes. As with the other compositions, changes are rife.

Kaiser and the gang do well in reviving Ayler, now even less of a ghost.


Track Listing: New New Grass / Message From Albert; Music is the Healing Force of the Universe; Japan/Universal Indians; A Man is Like a Tree; Oh! Love of Life; Thank God for Women; Heart Love; New Generation; New Ghosts / New Message.

Personnel: Vinny Golia: reeds; Aurora Josephson: voice; Henry Kaiser: guitar; Mike Keneally: piano, guitar, voice; Joe Morris: guitar, bass; Damon Smith: bass; Weasle Walter: drums.

Title: Healing Force: The Songs of Albert Ayler | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

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