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Spirits Rejoice

Albert Ayler

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Album Review

Recorded live at New York's Judson Hall in 1965, Spirits Rejoice is one of Albert Ayler's wildest, noisiest albums, partly because it's one of the very few that teams him with another saxophonist, altoist Charles Tyler. It's also one of the earliest recordings to feature Ayler's brother Don playing an amateurish but expressive trumpet, and the ensemble is further expanded by using bassists Henry Grimes and Gary Peacock together on three of the five tracks; plus, the rubato "Angels" finds Ayler interacting with Call Cobbs' harpsichord in an odd, twinkling evocation of the spiritual spheres. Aside from that more spacious reflection, most of the album is given over to furious ensemble interaction and hard-blowing solos that always place in-the-moment passion above standard jazz technique. Freed up by the presence of the trumpet and alto, Ayler's playing concentrates on the rich lower register of his horn and all the honks and growls that go with it; his already thick, huge tone has rarely seemed more monolithic. Spirits Rejoice also provides an opportunity to hear the sources of Ayler's simple, traditional melodies becoming more eclectic. The nearly 12-minute title track has a pronounced New Orleans marching band feel, switching between two themes reminiscent of a hymn and a hunting bugle call, and the brief "Holy Family" is downright R&B-flavored. "Prophet" touches on a different side of Ayler's old-time march influence, with machine-gun cracks and militaristic cadences from drummer Sunny Murray driving the raggedly energetic ensemble themes. For all its apparent chaos, Spirits Rejoice is often surprisingly pre-arranged — witness all the careening harmony passages that accompany the theme statements, and the seamless transitions of the title track. Spirits Rejoice is proof that there was an underlying logic even to Ayler's most extreme moments, and that's why it remains a tremendously inspiring recording.

Biography

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...
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