Albert Ayler

Albert Ayler, born July 13, 1936 in Cleveland Heights (Ohio) – November 1970, was one of the most primitive of free jazz musicians of 1960s. His deep, blistering tone was achieved by using only the strongest plastic reeds on his tenor Saxophone. He also had a wide, soulful vibrato straight out of church music. His 1964 trio and quartet records, such as “Spiritual Unity” and “The Hilversum Sessions”, show that he was pushing the improvisational ideas of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, into abstract realms in which timbre is the music’s backbone, and not harmony and melody. Critics have compared his ecstatic music from 1965 and 1966 to a Salvation Army brass band. It featured simple themes that alternated with spontaneous group improvisations. This brought jazz back to its preLouis Armstrong roots. Ayler is still a beloved figure. His most well-known tune is “Ghosts”, which has a bouncy, sing-song melody that reminds one of a nursery rhyme. It was covered by Lester Bowie and Joe McPhee as well as Ken Vandermark and John Tchicai. Mars Williams, a saxophonist, led a group called Witches and Devils that covered many of Ayler’s songs. Peter Brotzmann’s Die Like A Dog Quartet, a group that is loosely dedicated to Ayler, is Peter Brotzmann. A song called “Little Birds Have Fast Hearts” refers to Ayler’s childhood nickname. Marc Ribot, a guitarist who has performed Ayler songs over the years, released an album in 2005 dedicated to collective improvisation. It was called ‘Spiritual Unity’ and it was named after Ayler’s 1964 album. Roy Harper, an English guitarist/singer, dedicated the song “One for All”, which he released in 1969 on ‘Folkjokeopus”, to Albert Ayler (“One for Al”), “whom I loved and knew during my time in Copenhagen.” Harper considered Ayler “one of the most important jazzmen of our age.” Harper stated in the Folkejokeopus notes that Ayler was “in many ways the king”. The Albert Ayler Trio’s Spiritual Unity album is well-known to have had a significant influence on Paul McCartney’s recording of The Beatles’ acclaimed album ‘Revolver. Text contributed by users is available under Creative Commons By–SA License. It may also be available under GNU FDL.

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