Handbill for Slugs on Ave C. Lee Morgan would be murdered out front in '72 by a jealous girlfriend. Notice Sun Ra playing every Monday. Thems was the days.
A young Albert Ayler, he'd join Little Walter's band as a teenager.
Ayler playing at Coltrane's funeral, 1967.
Albert Ayler (b. July 13, 1936, d. Nov. 1970) was (and is) one of the most important jazz musicians of the 2oth century and perhaps along with John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman the greatest of the "free jazz" players who came to prominence in the 1960's. From his debut recording, a version of Gershwin's Summertime recorded in Sweden with a clueless Swedish bebop rhythm section attempting to follow him, in which he turns the tune inside out, braying and screeching out his inner turmoil, it drags the listener to the edge of pathos and leaves you drained. For what it's worth (in monetary value, exactly nothing) I consider Ayler's Summertime a high point of free jazz equal to Coltrane's Alabama and Ornette Coleman's Lonely Woman, through his landmark ESP Disk recordings of the mid-60's-- Spiritual Unity, The Bells, Ghosts, Spirits, New York Eye & Ear Control, et al, recorded with one of the greatest free groups ever assembled-- Don Cherry (who had played in Ornette's original quartet) on trumpet, Gary Peacock (who left perhaps the best payday available at the time in Miles Davis' band to play with Ayler) and drummer Sonny Murray (whose name New York Eye and Ear Control was released under), Ayler made music, that to John Coltrane-- "seemed to have reached a place we have not been able to get to yet". Ayler's mission was to update the free spirited playing of the early New Orleans jazz groups (Sydney Bechet was one of his greatest influences) to reflect the world he lived in (his fiery sound mirroring the turmoil created by the Viet Nam war, the Black Panthers facing down the police dressed in black leather and armed with shotguns, children burned to death in church in Alabama, political leaders gunned down in public, etc.) One critic wrote-- "Never before has their been such naked aggression in jazz", and he was right. Ayler's music was full of rage, pathos, and a search for "spiritual unity" that he would reach often through sheer force of lung power. He played with a raw, full bodied sound, with a gutsy vibrato and blistering tone. Ayler and Cherry in fact seemed to have an almost telepathic way of playing together that is often baffling. Jazz, however is not our subject for today. I believe jazz writing is best left to those who can explain things like exactly what "modular" playing is, and I'm really not that guy. Today's subject are the discs Ayler cut near the end of his short life, records that are more R&B than jazz, yet they really defy categorization, as they are so unique there are few comparisons to be found in music. The only one I can make is the guitar dominated rock'n'roll/funk fusion of Miles Davis' records like Jack Johnson, Live-Evil, Agartha, Pangaea, parts of Get Up With It (Rated X for example) and On The Corner (and the many outtakes that have recently emerged on the Jack Johnson and On The Corner sessions box sets). I once heard that Iggy when auditioning guitar players would make them listen to Jack Johnson, a great rock'n'roll record, jazz fans disdained it when it came out.