Archive for Albert Ayler

R.I.P. Gary Peacock (1935-2020)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on September 8, 2020 by telescoper

I heard on Saturday via social media that the great bass player Gary Peacock had passed away on 4th September, only to see other posts claiming that the rumours of his death were a hoax. I was relieved about that but then it turns out that the hoax reports were themselves a hoax and Gary Peacock had indeed died. He was 85 years old.

Gary Peacock is probably best known for his work with the likes of Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans and Jack DeJohnette but as a tribute I thought I would post an example of his earlier work with Albert Ayler. I think the album Spiritual Unity with Gary Peacock on bass and Sonny Murray on drums is one of the highlights of 1960s free jazz.

This tune, the shorter of two versions on Spiritual Unity of an original composition by Albert Ayler called Ghosts, is a great example how he could make coherent what at first hearing sounds like disassociated bursts of sound. It involves remarkable improvised melodies based on short thematic lines designed to evoke unsophisticated  folk music or nursery tunes. It may sound primitive on the surface, but it’s very complex underneath and creating this extraordinary sound world clearly required great technical mastery from Ayler and his supporting musicians, especially Gary Peacock, who plays wonderfully on this track.

Rest in peace, Gary Peacock (1935-2020)

 

Summertime – Albert Ayler

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on May 26, 2017 by telescoper

George Gershwin’s beautiful song Summertime has been recorded countless times in countless ways by countless artists, but if you’re expecting it to be performed as a restful lullaby, as it is normally played, you’ll probably be shocked. This version is a heartbreaking expression of pain and anguish performed by the great Albert Ayler, and it was recorded in Copenhagen in 1963.

P.S. The painting shown in the video is by Matisse….

Bye Bye Blackbird

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on December 16, 2011 by telescoper

I’ve posted about Albert Ayler before, but the excuse for posting this remarkable track is that it is preceded by a rare recording  of him talking. It dates back to January 1963 and was recorded in Copenhagen; Ayler had relocated to Sweden in 1962 in the hope that he would find a freer artistic environment than was available in the USA at the time. In the spoken segment, he comes across as a very quiet and thoughtful young man and gives little hint of his troubled character, but his life was a constant struggle against depressive illness and critical disdain for his music. Especially moving is the phrase he utters at the end “One day, everything will be as it should be”. Sadly that wasn’t to be the case for him, and in 1970 he took his own life. The track is a standard tune, Bye Bye Blackbird, on which he uses his extraordinary saxophone tone to give voice to some of the pain he obviously couldn’t express in words.

Ghosts

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on October 23, 2011 by telescoper

I’ve been meaning to post this pioneering piece of music for some time but never seemed to get around to it until a comment yesterday reminded me that I’m probably not posting enough about Jazz these days. Albert Ayler was one of the true originals of the free jazz movement of the 1960s, and I think the album Spiritual Unity he made with Gary Peacock on bass and Sonny Murray on drums is the first record on which his radical ideas came fully to fruition, which is why I’ve chosen to post a track from it. His saxophone style was totally unique, with a rough broad vibrato and searing hard-edged tone contrasting dramatically with a superb command of the upper register and exhilirating speed of execution. His articulation is blurred in order to give the saxophone a more personal timbre, with inflections similar to a human voice, and he’s able to accomplish dramatic changes in mood, from a wild passion bordering on violence, to a deep sense of pathos or nostalgia. As is the case with other highly independent jazz musicians, such as Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, you only have to hear one note to know immediately who’s playing.

This tune, the shorter of two versions on Spiritual Unity of an original composition by Albert Ayler called Ghosts, is a great example how he could make coherent what at first hearing sounds like disassociated bursts of sound. It involves remarkable improvised melodies based on short thematic lines designed to evoke unsophisticated  folk music or nursery tunes. It may sound primitive on the surface, but it’s very complex underneath and creating this extraordinary sound world clearly required great technical mastery from Ayler and his supporting musicians, especially Gary Peacock, who plays wonderfully on this track.

Yet for all its brilliance, this record also hints at the dark clouds that were never far from Ayler’s horizon. Although critically acclaimed, his music never found favour with the public. He battled depression throughout the late 60s and, in 1970, at the age of only 34, he took his own life by jumping off a ferry into New York’s  East River.