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Albert Ayler


12" LP

Availability: In stock


Quick Overview

Bells is the celebrated set that overjoyed the audience at New York's Town Hall on May 1st, 1965--a ferocious 20-minute romp containing excellent group improvisation and Ayler's signature military-themed melodies. Pressed on 180-gram transparent virgin vinyl. Includes digital download card.


Albert Ayler's short but definitive album, Bells, has been issued again in 2009 via its original format. As initially released, it is a one-sided, collectors item vinyl platter limited to 1,000 copies, this time in a translucent plastic disc featuring a red ink facsimile of the black-and-white cover, with the yin/yang reversed title and cursive ESP logo surrounded by personnel and the label's then W. 55th St., New York City address. Covering about 20 minutes of music from the legendary Town Hall/N.Y.C. concert on May Day of 1965, it is not surprising to hear the angst and anguish in their music, considering it was made about five weeks after Black nationalist leader Malcolm X was assassinated. Ayler and his quintet blow their own horns in alert of the "new thing" in jazz coming on strong, with no apologies as to its fierce intent or audacious stance. Brother/trumpeter Donald Ayler and alto saxophonist Charles Tyler join with the tenor saxophonist in a united front of sound and steel forged reserve in making free jazz a reality. The back cover has a reprint of Dan Morgenstern's Down Beat Magazine review of the performance, which is insightful, fair, accurate, and to the point, a good read for anyone who might dismiss Ayler's concept as something other than serious. The first of the two spontaneous compositions contains an outburst by the whole ensemble, followed by trumpet and tenor sax solos that bend notes and shapes in the extreme abstract. A free bop-based mid-section shows recording flaws, as drummer Sunny Murray and bassist Lewis Worrell are barely audible. Tyler's alto is drenched in the loud and abrasive tone the Ayler's dictated, but shows he has his own voice. The overtone-soaked music is tempered by a low-level bass solo from Worrell, with Murray's spare, splashy cymbal inserts, ending with a bouncy but eventual whirling dervish coda. The second, much longer improvisation, is based on Ayler's "Holy Ghost" theme, as a soulful, singing, vibrato-driven Ayler ignites Worrell via Murray's signature triple and quadruple flam accents. There's a clarion march theme repeated before and after congealed chaos, followed by deconstructed but distinct melodies, albeit brave and uncompromising. When all three of these horn players blow hard and strong together, it brings to mind Amiri Baraka's comment about "a terrible wholeness," as this purposefully saturated music stands alone as the most singularly unique early creative statement in modern music. As Albert Ayler recorded several definitive recordings before or after this one, and due to the very short length of Bells, it cannot be considered a magnum opus. But it does contain music played by his most powerful unit, a small window into the mind and heart of the most iconic maverick in the free jazz movement, and a magnet for discussion that lingers on well past his death.

Additional Information

Artist Albert Ayler
Track Listing 1 Bells - 20:03

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