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Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe

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Album Review

Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe is a powerful and often ignored recording from the Albert Ayler catalog. It is a prophetic statement dealing with guilt, confusion, sorrow, and hopes of redemption. A powerful rhythm section of Bobby Few on piano, Stafford James and James Folwell on bass, (Folwell on electric fender bass), and Muhammad Ali on drums manage to take a backseat to the prominent vocals of Ayler's business associate and girlfriend Mary Parks, listed on the record as Mary Maria. Her emotional vocals are featured on "Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe," "Man Is Like a Tree," and "Island Harvest." Throughout these tracks Maria sounds as if she is pleading and reasoning not just universally, but directly with Ayler, trying to convince him of the positive aspects of life and her evangelistic shouts of "be healed" on the title track can prove uncomfortable. "Masonic Inborn" is an instrumental track finding Ayler not only overdubbing cacophonous bagpipe solos but also playing ocarina. "Oh Love Is Life" is Ayler's sole vocal performance on the album, his words and vocal delivery are truly frightening. This is a dreamlike plea to the sources haunting his soul to succumb to universal love. Following the intensity of the previous five tracks, the album closes with the hazy gutbucket blues of "Drudgery" reminiscent of the New Grass sessions, adding guitarist Henry Vestine of the blues rock band Canned Heat. Ayler's musical curtain was eerily closing the same way it started — playing the blues of his high school summer vacations as a member of Little Walter's band. Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe, along with tracks that were released posthumously on the Last Album, were recorded at the same session. While not easy listening, they complete an important portrait of a man facing a life and death inner struggle beyond the boundaries of jazz. The inevitable outcome culminated on November 25, 1970, when Ayler's drowned body was found floating in New York's East River. Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe was reissued for the first time on CD by Verve in March 2003.

Customer Reviews

Much truth is revealed here...

I have worked with many of the giants of jazz and rock and I must finally come out and say it... I believe this man to be a fraud. There are others as well. Someone such as Don Cherry understands many forms of music and can perform them on a high level. He can then take a lot of knowledge from many disciplines and create his own flavor of art. Mr. Ayler does not possess basic saxophone playing skills nor harmonics skills necessary to have something to work with. Critics who go on about his "stripping away of convention and tradition" are being self-indulgent and pompous. One must have something of substance to strip away from. Ornette Coleman does. Eddie Blackwell Does. Ayler does not. I wish I had the time to pull a joke on art-snobby critics and put out musical trash purposfully and then call them on it. The thing that irks me is that there is some beautiful non-conventional, cutting-edge art out there that has a lot of mind behind it... and it gets put into the same box as this fraudulent music and suffers because of it. Thank you critics who cant play music on a high level, but sure know how to make a living explaining it.

How insane

Sushiuniverse has an excellent point about these snobbishly-pretentious modern art critics. You have to have some sort of harmonic foundation to "strip away" from. Mr. Ayler may be a visionary but wow does his playing sound terribly ugly and his fast lines like utter crap. I really have a hard time with these avant garde players anyway but Albert Ayler definitively creates mysterious noise and horrible sound effects similar to slaying baby animals on his saxophone.


Born: July 13, 1936 in Cleveland, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s

One of the giants of free jazz, Albert Ayler was also one of the most controversial. His huge tone and wide vibrato were difficult to ignore, and his 1966 group sounded like a runaway New Orleans brass band from 1910. Unlike John Coltrane or Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler was not a virtuoso who had come up through the bebop ranks. His first musical jobs were in R&B bands, including one led by Little Walter, although oddly enough he was nicknamed "Little Bird" in his early days because of a similarity...
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