13 July 2010

Happy Birthday Albert

Today is the birthday of Albert Ayler, avant-garde tenor saxophonist. He was born on 13 July 1936, and would have been 74 today.  He died in November 1970, an apparent suicide; his body was found floating in the East River.

Here is "Ghosts, first variation" from Ayler's album Spiritual Unity (1964). The bassist is Gary Peacock and the drummer Sunny Murray.

I bought this album on LP when I was around 19, during the time when I was playing in Cecil Taylor's Black Music Ensemble at Antioch College.  In his Antioch class, "The Black Aesthetic in Music," Taylor taught that one of the unifying principles in black music was the idea of spirit possession, derived from West African religion, but manifesting in music of the African diaspora in such diverse forms as black gospel music, voodoo, and James Brown.  The music of Cecil Taylor and the late music of John Coltrane can be understood as manifestations of the tradition of spirit possession, as can the playing of Albert Ayler in "Ghosts."

And here is Ayler's version of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."
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