In a kind of “under the radar” way Albert Ayler accomplished enough for two lifetimes in his 34 years, and this set, a body of recordings which hint as much at what was destined never to become as to ground already covered, exemplifies this.
There are over two hours of previously unreleased music here, rounding out the fragments previously put out on two LPs on the Shandar label, all of it arranged chronologically so that listeners can gain an idea of how both the music and the musicians themselves coalesced in those balmy days of summer 1970.
The quality of mystery is uncommon in improvised creative music, but here, despite the neo-spiritual bluster that was arguably always an aspect of Ayler’s work, it’s present in abundance, and while Ayler purists might be critical of Tintweiss and Blairman’s work, not least because they’re not Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray, they are still at those moments in time critical to the music’s success. Furthermore, Ayler himself had musically moved on to stake out new territory destined never to be fully mapped.
This is arguably apparent on the rendition of Birth Of Mirth, which clocks in on this occasion at almost twice the length of the version on The Last Album and has Ayler reaching back to roots that are entirely personal. The same is in a way true of Parks’ vocal contribution, which on this occasion is so in the moment that not only precedents but also labels casual and otherwise are defied.
The addition of Call Cobbs on piano on discs 3 and 4 has the effect of grounding the music in aspects of the African American traditions, relatively speaking. So on Truth Is Marching In some rarefied holy-rolling of the Sunday morning variety enters proceedings, but not to the point where it jars within the overall continuum of Ayler’s music, which after all had elements of holy-rolling all the way through his career on record despite any claims irked purists might make to the contrary.
In a sense, though, mere discussion of the music serves only limited ends, not least because this set, together with the always dubious benefit of hindsight, offers us a vivid glimpse of a musician who truly progressed (in the sense of artistic trajectory) in a way that in the decades since his death has become far less common.
CD1: Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe; Birth Of Mirth; Masonic Inborn; Revelations 1; Oh! Love Of Life; Island Harvest; Heart Love (43.40)
CD2: Ghosts; Love Cry; Desert Blood; Revelations 1; Revelations 2; Revelations 3; Revelations 4; Speaking In Tongues (64.01)
CD3: Truth Is Marching In; Zion Hill AKA Universal Message; Again Comes The Risinng Of The Sun; Holy Family; Revelations 5; In Heart Only; Revelations 6; A Man Is Like A Tree (72.01)
CD4: Holy, Holy; Spirits Rejoice; Spirits; Thank God For Women; Spiritual Reunion; Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe; Mary Parks Vocal Announcement / Curtain Call (66.45)
Ayler (ts, ss, v); Mary Parks (ss, v); Steve Tintweiss (b); Allen Blairman (d). Call Cobbs (p) on CDs 3 & 4. Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-De-Vence, France, 25 and 27 July 1970.
Elemental Music 5990443