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New Grass

Albert Ayler

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Album Review

Possibly the most notorious Albert Ayler release and universally misunderstood (i.e., hated) by fans and critics alike. When New Grass was released in 1968 it received a hostile outcry of "sell-out." Listening to New Grass in hindsight; it must be taken into account that even though commercial elements are apparent — a soul horn section, backup singers, boogaloo drumming from Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, and electric rock bass — Ayler's vocals and tenor playing could hardly gain commercial radio exposure at any time. It's likely Impulse prodded Ayler to move into a more pronounced blues-oriented sound and he went willingly. Ayler wasn't a stranger to R&B or gutbucket blues; he had started his career playing saxophone with Chicago bluesman Little Walter in the '50s. Ayler's screeching tone remains intact on New Grass, but it's mixed with definite R&B riffs like the obvious honkin' nod to "Slippin and Sliddin" on "New Generation." Ayler's attempt to explain himself on the opening track with "Message from Albert Ayler," reveals his impending dread over controversy concerning the material. It is a problem many artists face at some point in their careers when trying to move in a different direction, no matter what the reason; they may end up losing a majority of their audience by taking a foreign approach. Interested listeners now have another chance to hear New Grass, as it was issued for the first time in America on CD in 2005 by Universal/Impulse.

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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