Sunday, December 16, 2018

Mars Williams, An Ayler Xmas Volume 2

Some things strike one as a sort of no brainer. They just make sense. Such is the CD at hand, An Ayler Xmas, Volume 2 (ESP/Soul What SWR-0004). Mars Williams heads up the two ensembles featured on this outing, on saxes and toy instruments. Why a no brainer? As many readers will know Albert Ayler was a tenor saxophonist who was an important guiding force behind the advent of "New Thing" aka "Free Jazz."  The thematic bedrock of his melodic launching vehicles as often as not were rather homespun folkish melodies, even at times "Spirituals," straightforward tunes that then opened up to tonal expressiveness to a color palette of brilliant washes of sound, the tenor sax leading the way through mazes of free open expressions, testificatory, soulful flights that were the opposite of the chugging sort of swing feels that much Modern Jazz was at times about. He opened up the possibilities for Jazzmen going forward, so that even Coltrane found himself liberated from chord changes and at times even modalities to instead fly forward into virtuoso inspirations of sound.

I have not heard the first volume of this as of yet but this Volume Two revives some Ayler head melodies and some earthy Christmas Carols like "Oh, Tannenbaum" and "Joy to the World," even "O Come Emmanuel" as springboards to avant maelstroms of joy.

The two bands are good, very good ones. The first a Chicago-based avant all-star lineup playing live in Chitown, with Mars and Josh Berman, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jim Baker, Kent Kessler, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt and Jeb Bishop! Then there is a European contingent of Mars plus Thomas Berghammer, Hermann Stangassinger, Didi Kern and Christoff Kurzmann. They are in great spirits as well so there is no drop off in zeal and energy.

Hence you who love Ayler will find this to your liking as those who have dug the Chicago-centered NRG Ensemble will as well. It is delightfully off, completely warped and yet breathes joyfully and basks in a holiday glow.

Anyone who suspects they would like this, by all means grab it and get it rolling this winter and for years to come! It's going for cheap out there from what I see.  Bravo!