Albert Ayler – Stockholm, Berlin 1966 ★★★★★

Albert AylerhatOLOGY

Albert Ayler (ts), Donald Ayler (t), Michel Samson (vn), William Folwell (b), and Beaver Harris (d). Rec. 1966

Recorded during Albert Ayler’s two-week tour of Europe in 1966, this astonishing document gives the listener front row access to a set of concerts that has, until now, remained officially unreleased. Recorded on 10 November by Swedish Radio Ltd at Konserthuset, Stockholm, and on 3 November by WDR at Philharmonie in the Berlin Jazz Festival, both performances feature Ayler and his group at the peak of their collective powers. Already legendary among free jazz enthusiasts, they were greeted in Europe with the kind of enthusiasm that was usually reserved for groups like The Beatles. This was an exciting and productive time for Ayler who, after spending several years developing his sound live and on record, was now ready to share it with the world and make his mark.

The music played here is a selection of his more famous compositions such as ‘Truth Is Marching In’, ‘Our Prayer’, ‘Bells’ and ‘Ghosts’, spiritual anthems that have their roots in the New Orleans jazz tradition, but are also teetering on the brink of abandoning jazz altogether – sounding at times like contemporary classical scores. Of particular importance here is Ayler’s choice of musicians to get his spiritual and creative message across, the most interesting addition being Dutch violinist Michel Samson whose finely tuned fingering is the perfect foil for Ayler to bounce his complex tenor honks and howls around as he searches for his own musical nirvana. Also impressive is Beaver Harris’ almost painterly drum technique that, together with William Fowell’s equally meditative bass bowing, provides the perfect platform for Ayler and his brother Donald on trumpet to fully communicate with each other. A magnificent example of this can be heard on the Berlin version of ‘Truth Is Marching In’ where the main theme is stretched out to its very limit, before ricocheting back into a boiling bout of improvisation that is jaw dropping in its intensity and beauty.

– Edwin Pouncey

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