Albert Ayler - Live in Greenwich Village: The Complete Recordings

Albert Ayler
Live in Greenwich Village: The Complete Recordings

Released 1998 on Impulse
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 19/03/2001ce

This is a 2 CD set that contains the complete recordings of the Albert Ayler Group in person at The Village Gate in New York City 1965 and The Village Vanguard 1966 also in NYC. As usual with Impulse the sound quality and sleevenotes are superb. There is an awful lot of music to absorb here so I'll start with Disc 1, first of all the personnel is Albert Ayler-tenor sax, Don "GOD" Ayler-trumpet, Joel Freedman-cello, Lewis Worrell-bass, and Sunny Murray-drums, also included on the sessions are Michel Sampson-violin, Bill Folwell and Henry Grimes on basses, Call Cobbs-piano and Beaver Harris-drums.

The music contained on this disc is nothing short of spectacular and surely must rank with the MC5's "Kick Out The Jams" as one of the all time "high energy" live sets. "Holy Ghost" kicks off Disc 1 in dramatic fashion, this is a relentless blast of freakout jazz from the word go, everyone in the group is burning full on, Joel Freedman's cello solo is amazing as is Lewis Worrell's bass solo, the brothers Ayler are firing shotgun rounds at each other while Sunny Murray does the Keith Moon act on drums, WOW! what a high octane opener. "Truth Is Marching In" is a New Orleans style funeral dirge, the kind the Ayler's did so well, it features some great scratchy cello from Freedman that brings to mind Tristan Honsinger on The Pop Group's-"We Are All Prostitutes" 45. "Our Prayer" is a short "mellow down easy" piece that is simple but very moving, Don Ayler really shines on this one. "Spirits Rejoice" is an extended workout that combines the Ayler's marching band sound with the avant-garde freakout blowing of something like John Coltrane's "OM".

The next piece is the absolutely stunning "Divine Peacemaker" this is probably the best track of the whole set, it starts once again with the marching band sound then quickly shifts gears into a marathon freakout ride where the Ayler's play off each other like "Sonic" Smith and Wayne Kramer on horns, there are moments on this piece that are awe inspiring, one second it's free form blowing then they turn on a dime back into the marching band style and then back again to free form, check out Don Ayler's trumpet playing at about 6 minutes into the song, it leaves me speechless.Disc One ends with a mellow number with Albert and Call Cobbs on piano goin' down slow, and with that the disc ends.

You want more? You got it!! Step right up for Disc 2. The lineup here again has the Ayler Brothers, Sampson, Freedman, Folwell and Harris, also on board is Alan Silva on bass and George "The Animal" Steele on trombone. This set from 1966 kicks off with "For John Coltrane" which is a spacey Indian influenced piece that recalls some of Coltrane's excursions into this terrain. "Change Has Come" is another spacey drone trip that shifts into a battle hymn at times along the way, Don Ayler sounds like The Legendary Stardust Cowboy at one point, the piece then turns into a 90 mph freakout speed chase like that scene from that old Steve McQueen film "Bullit."

"Light in Darkness" returns us to the streets of New Orleans with a jolly marching band stomp! Get Down!. Up next is "Heavenly Home" which has an almost oriental feel to it, Don plays some far out trumpet blasts while Albert plays a really seductive droney riff on sax, the violin and cello work is also quite hypnotic and at one stretch the violin sounds like Sandy Bull on banjo.

"Spiritual Rebirth" goes back to the melody style of "Divine Peacemaker" from the first disc, this one features some great elastic band bass playing from Alan Silva and at times the violins collide in a sound that reminds me of a police car siren. "Infinite Search" sounds like a Salvation Army band tuning up to play the national anthem before a baseball game on Mars. At this point my mind has gone thru some heavy biochemical changes because the next track "Omega Is The Alpha" sounds kinda commercial to me, I feel like Oliver Wendell Douglas of Green Acres who has been in Hooterville so long it all seems normal now, I swear at one point Ayler's group is starting to play a square dance tune. We are now approaching the finish line and "Universal Thoughts" brings this Albert Ayler marathon to a close with a jolly carnival tune. I'm sorry but I gotta go get a cold beer and then go for a run around the block, this record has just shattered my brain to bits.

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