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Albert Ayler: New York Eye and Ear Control Revisited


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Albert Ayler: New York Eye and Ear Control Revisited
The backstory of New York Ear and Eye Control is a significant factor in the music and the direction free jazz took in the 1960s. Filmmaker Michael Snow commissioned Albert Ayler's trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray to record a thirty-minute soundtrack for a movie, "Walking Woman," he had yet to film. As explained in the liner notes, he "wanted to buy a half hour of music." Also invited to the session were trumpeter & cornetist Don Cherry, saxophonist John Tchicai and trombonist Roswell Rudd. Snow specified that there were to be "no solos," just pure improvisation. Sure, Ornette Coleman had in 1960 recorded Free Jazz (Atlantic, 1961) and John Coltrane would later produce Ascension (Impulse!, 1965), but both recordings featured solos, as did (to some extent) Peter Brötzmann's Machine Gun (FMP, 1968).

In 1964, Ayler, Peacock, and Murray had recorded the signature albums Spirits (Debut Records)—which has also been called Witches & DevilsProphecy (ESP Disk), and Spiritual Unity (ESP Disk). This session is decidedly different with no solos, yet each individual voice and identity is clear. You cannot fail to recognize Ayler's paint-peeling tenor and Murray's free-floating time, as well as the the alto of Tchicai, who would later play on Coltrane's Ascension. Cherry had recently joined Ayler's quartet in 1964 and would accompany him on a European tour and maybe, just maybe, this session was the catalyst for that tour. The disc opens with brief (minute long) "Don's Dawn," a duo between Cherry and Peacock, before the flood gates open into the rawness of "A Y" and "ITT." While both trade in dissonance and cacophony, the music applies the raw materials of Ayler's sound, that Gospel growl of a hungry ghost. Was this music the inspiration and stimulus for UK groups like AMM and Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME)? Arguably, yes. Ayler's influence on artists such as Charles Gayle, John Dikeman, and Mats Gustafsson is quite apparent here. The cornerstone of collective improvisation is laid down here and its varied forms spread to London, Wuppertal and Amsterdam, before reappearing in the US.

Track Listing

Don’s Dawn; A Y; ITT.


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

Album information

Title: New York Eye And Ear Control Revisited | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Ezz-thetics

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