The two concerts presented on this disc represent two of the finest dates of Albert Ayler's European tour of 1966. The band -- with brother, Don, on trumpet, violinist Michael Sampson, drummer Beaver Harris, and bassist William Folwell -- was in fantastic shape and performed beyond expectation on both evenings. What is most noticeable about these dates and how they fill in a part of the Ayler mystique as a performer was to hear how immediately he would dictate a marching rhythm, theme, or folk song melody, or even perhaps a child ballad. It was important to acknowledge, right from the beginning in these tunes for a European audience, where this music came from and what continuum he was part of.
The opener is "Bells," and for the longest time a Sousa marching rhythm precedes an eight-note melody. Like Ornette Coleman, he uses Sampson's violin and Donald's trumpet to move that melody through the modulation of the rhythm section before taking off into something else, someplace where the saxophone can become a real and true extension of the human voice. The squealing and honking and wailing all become part of a choir of voices forgotten by history, yet inextricably tied to it as ciphers and ghosts. The theme of "Bells" and those of "Our Prayer," "Ghost," "Holy Ghost," and "Spirits" all come from the entryway of emotional clarity and parade churchlike through the band, transferring themselves out onto an audience that must have been staring in disbelief.
The shock is how well Ayler moves through his harmonic inventions and involves the band without regard for their involvement. He knows they are there; that's enough, and so he speaks freely. His timbral modulations carry emotions directly from the heart through the horn onto the band, who fills them and sends them out, whether tenderly or terrifyingly, onto those in the seats. This is an amazing document, like the Hilversum sessions but better, because the sound is respectable here and matches the grandeur and shocking emotional immediacy of the performances.
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