301

Albert Ayler: New York Eye and Ear Control

Clifford Allen By

Sign in to view read count
Albert Ayler: New York Eye and Ear Control Even in a form of music as decidedly left-of-center as "free jazz," a canon of musicians and works has been built. This canon is essentially based upon easily-obtainable recordings rather than a history that falls to documents, primary sources and musical meetings that went commercially unrecorded. A case in point: American creative large ensembles of the 1960s generally start and stop with Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz (Atlantic, 1960) and Coltrane's Ascension (Impulse, 1965), leaving out many valuable works.

When we're lucky, the gathering of six musicians and composers that produced New York Eye and Ear Control in 1964, an ostensible soundtrack for a structural film of the same name by Michael Snow, is mentioned as a halfway point between the orchestras of Coleman and Coltrane. If only such a triumvirate were that simple.

There's a huge amount of between-the-cracks history around New York Eye and Ear Control. Snow is a painter, filmmaker, violinist, pianist and composer, born in Montreal and working in New York in the mid-1960s. His loft served as a rehearsal and gathering space for musicians associated with the Jazz Composers' Guild, among others. His graphic design, centering on the "Walking Woman" image based on Carla Bley's silhouette, graced the covers of both the original ESP-Disk issue of New York Eye and Ear Control and Paul Bley's Barrage (ESP, 1964).

This particular Snow film juxtaposes idyllic imagery with the gestural and abstract, as well as raw, natural humanity with wooden cut-outs of human form, or collective improvisation with formalist visual order. And yet what the music world believes it has is a missing link negating the artistic context in which the album was produced.

The group is comprised of Albert Ayler's working quartet with trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray, plus New York Art Quartet hornmen, altoist John Tchicai and trombonist Roswell Rudd. Whereas Free Jazz is a clear double quartet with a sketchy theme and loose, stereo-divided dialogue and Ascension separates concise extemporizations with collective ensemble passages, the sextet here is a free jam that creates its own order. Certain approaches to sound rise in volume and become foregrounded, while Murray and Peacock create an allover field of motion, generating pulse that swings in its production of presence and absence.

Ayler's wide-vibrato wail, gutbucket honks and folksy abstractions are all here, but they're constantly goading and commented on by Tchicai's slinky repetition, Rudd's braying tailgate and Cherry's darting bebop shards. The weight of the Cherry-Ayler front line is well documented, but Ayler's ability to defer in an ensemble, his worrying of phrases goosing Tchicai's laconic harp, or mimicking a brassy Dixieland blat, aren't often experienced let alone spoken of. It doesn't matter whether this is a "cornerstone" Ayler recording, for New York Eye and Ear Control is a valuable window into the music's early history as well as what might have happened outside record dates, more than one is usually privy to.


Track Listing: Don's Dawn; AY; ITT.

Personnel: Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone; John Tchicai: alto saxophone; Don Cherry: pocket trumpet; Roswell Rudd: trombone; Gary Peacock: bass; Sunny Murray: drums.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ESP Disk | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Desire & Freedom CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read On Hollywood Boulevard CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Motorman's Son CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Checking Out" CD/LP/Track Review Checking Out
by Budd Kopman
Published: July 19, 2016
Read "Free for One" CD/LP/Track Review Free for One
by Budd Kopman
Published: August 15, 2016
Read "Texas Times" CD/LP/Track Review Texas Times
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 14, 2016
Read "Infinite Spirit - Revisiting Music of the Mwandishi Band" CD/LP/Track Review Infinite Spirit - Revisiting Music of the Mwandishi Band
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 4, 2016
Read "Intuit" CD/LP/Track Review Intuit
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 14, 2016
Read "Wise After The Event - Deluxe Edition" CD/LP/Track Review Wise After The Event - Deluxe Edition
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 23, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!