Certainly no one at the time would have known that this recorded performance of the Maeght’s Festival in St. Paul de Vence was to be Albert Ayler’s last. But looking back on events that led up to his tragic death, his flame burnt so very bright that it surely was not going to burn long. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1936, Ayler embarked on a lifetime of spontaneous combustion that centered on the ‘new thing’ jazz movement and threatened to blow jazz apart. His music, a spartan accumulation of New Orleans marches, spirituals, blues and free jazz, inspired and was fueled by John Coltrane’s search for a pure, new energy sound. His time was so short, recording his first disc in 1962 and this last date just eight years later.
Ayler’s music can still be heard in the music of his disciples, Peter Brotzmann, David Murray, and Ken Vandermark. His genius was his ability to link the freedom and outwardness of his sound with more traditional music, thus tossing down breadcrumbs to follow back to more traditional jazz. Even if others including John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, and Pharoah Sanders chose not to follow this disintegrating path, there have always been bits and pieces of Ayler’s concepts in their music.
The significance of this historical recording is not its revelation but in the rawness of its presentation. Without brother Donald Ayler on trumpet, hospitalized with mental problems, and dropped by his label Impulse!, Ayler was marching the truth in alone. David Keenan’s new liner notes revive this remastered/reissued disc, and place this date in an accurate historical context.
Ayler returned to France after his triumphant concert in 1966 which was also recently remastered and reissued as Lörrach, Paris (Hatology). This trip seems to be (only in hindsight) a bit more desolate and frantic. Ayler peels away the accessibility that was his Impulse! recordings for a raw sound. He merely hints at the marches and the spirituals before erupting into stratospheres of sound, daring pianist Cal Cobbs and drummer Allen Blairman to follow. For fans of his music, his deconstruction pares the music to its essence. Those new to Ayler will discover the origins of much of the free jazz heard worldwide today. The crude microphone setup finds Ayler front and center with his trio almost an afterthought. But credit should be given to Water Records for their remaster. This edition is significantly better than the out-of-print Shandar and Jazz View editions.