Albert Ayler’s music was controversial during his life and today, four decades after his death. One of the ‘free’ jazz patriarchs of the sixties and seventies, Ayler employed a heavy vibrato and made use of overblowing and shrieks that came off as the saxophone equivalent of speaking in tongues. As part of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Impulse Records, Universal/Verve released Love Cry/ The Last Album, a two LP on one CD reissue of Ayler’s second and fifth albums for the legendary label.
Love Cry has been issued on CD, and this reissue does not include the alternate takes from that reissue. With the trumpet of brother Donald Ayler, Alan Silva on bass, Milford Graves on drums with Call Cobbs on harpsichord, this disc has brief and accessible versions of some of the staples of Ayler’s repertoire like Ghosts and Bells and display the brass band march and folk song roots of Ayler’s music. The longer recordings Zion Hill and Universal Indians (the latter a personal favorite) have a bit of what some would refer to as frenzied chaos.
The Last Album represents Ayler’s final studio recordings and derives from the same sessions that produced “Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe.” These recordings included Canned Heat guitarist Henry Vestine. This opens with an untitled duet of Ayler on bagpipes and Henry Vestine on electric guitar. Besides Vestine, others on this album include pianist Bobby Few, Bill Folwell and Stafford James on bass, Muhammad Ali on drums with Mary Maria (real name Parks) on vocals). Parks is credited with Again Comes The Rising Of The Sun, which she sings a bluesy lyric with Few’s rumbling piano complemented by Ayler’s bluesy buzz saw toned sax. Toiling co-written by Parks, Vestine and Folwell is a bluesy instrumental with Vestine’s Guitar Slim influenced guitar countered by Folwell’s picked bass and Few’s spare piano before Ayler enters like a sanctified Big Jay McNeely. Desert Blood opens with some raw sax before Ayler and Parks sing a lyric with biblical references in a manner suggestive of Sun Ra and June Tyson.
The Last Album probably is viewed along with New Grass as among the least essential recordings in Ayler’s discography although packaged with Love Cry, one certainly finds more than some moments that fans of Ayler will find compelling.
I was provided a review copy from Jazz & Blues Report for whom this review was originally drafted.