1. Bells (19:56)
(No track breaks, but (according to Jeff Schwartz) the compositions played are "Holy Ghost" and "No Name", going into "Bells". All compositions by Albert Ayler)
Albert Ayler (tenor saxophone)
Donald Ayler (trumpet)
Charles Tyler (alto saxophone)
Lewis Worrell (bass)
Sunny Murray (drums)
May 1, 1965
Town Hall, New York
Released as Bells on ESP (US) 1010, (Japan) BT5004, Base Record (Italy) ESP 1010, Calibre (Netherlands) ESPCD 1010, Abraxas (Italy) ESP 1010 (Minimax CD-single), ESP (US) ESPCD 1010. The original LP was released as one side on coloured vinyl, or as the sleeve has it: “Transparent disk complete on one side”. There are a number of different variations including ‘yellow vinyl, black sleeve with white lettering’ and `transparent vinyl, white sleeve, red lettering`.
Bells has also been given a CD release coupled with Prophecy on ESP/ZYX (Germany)1010-2 and Get Back (Italy) GET 1003CD. Get Back also issued Bells with Prophecy as a double LP GET 1003, and a limited edition of Bells in its original form (one-sided on translucent plastic) GET 1003LTD. In 2005 ESP (US) released ESP 4006, Bells coupled with Prophecy. In November 2017 ESP released a vinyl version of Bells with the alternate take of ‘Spirits’ from Spiritual Unity on its B-side. In February 2019 a cassette version of Bells with the single track duplicated on both sides was released by Personal Affair (US) PAESP-011. In 2020 Hat Hut released Bells with Spirits Rejoice.
Bells is also included in The Complete Esp Disk Recordings, Abraxas (Italy) ESP1.
From the sleevenotes
“To this listener, there seems to be a great deal of wild humor in Ayler’s music. Though often vehement, it is celebration rather than protest; much of it has the sheer “bad boy” joy of making sounds.
Whatever one`s reaction to this music, there can be little doubt that it contained the spirit of jazz. Some may dismiss it as untutored, primitive, or merely grotesque, but it certainly has the courage of its convictions and is anything but boring or pretentious.”
(From the Down Beat review of the original Town Hall concert, reprinted as the sleevenotes to some versions of the ESP release. Click here to read the full text.)
“The original LP-pressing of Bells was a translucent one-sided disc, with the cover of Bells painted on the grooveless back of the vinyl. After the commotion around the release of Ayler’s Spiritual Unity (ESP 1002) a year earlier, Bells was received rather coldly, with critics joking that the record looked better than it sounded. Even nowadays, Bells is a somewhat overlooked record.
What the critics missed, was what Albert’s brother, Donald, was contributing to that record. Although it wasn’t the debut of trumpeter Donald Ayler- he made his first appearance on disc with Albert on The New Wave in Jazz earlier that year- Bells shows for the first time what Donald was capable of in terms of humoristic and spiritual musical communication.
Albert wanted a trumpet player in his expanding group. So by the end of 1964 Donald took up the trumpet studying nine hours a day for a few months. While being able to follow the breathtakingly sharp improvisations of his brother almost immediately, he never perfected the technique of his trumpetplaying than up to the degree that he needed to accompany Albert’s saxophone.
Donald contributed enthusiastic arranging in turn-of-the-century style, and a Louis Armstrong-era swing to Albert’s writing. The sixties statement that free jazz was in a way a recuperation of early Dixieland music, with all musicians soloing at the same time, is commonly associated with Ornette Coleman’s music. But the music of the Aylers is far more directly connected with New Orleans style jazz than Ornette’s abstract art music. What the Ayler brothers added to furious free soloing, were recognisable hymns and songs. True, those lovely little tunes were set up mainly to be completely deconstructed, and sometimes virtually raped…
Bells is a medley of three Ayler tunes (Holy Ghost, No Name and Bells). In this May 1965 version themes are being played against each other, abandoned midway, or completely destroyed. Compared to the Holy Ghost version on The New Wave in Jazz (reissued on Impulse as part of Live in Greenwich Village), Donald and Albert have taken a big step forward into density and chaos! Drummer Sunny Murray and alto saxophone player Charles Tyler provide just the right tension and violence to add to this wild party.
By the end of 1965 the joyous roar of the Bells line-up had calmed down only just a little bit. A balance was found on Spirits Rejoice (ESP 1020), with more room for sublety, which was subsequently carried on for the classic Live in Greenwich Village (on Impulse) from 1966. Bells finds the Ayler group in their first discovery of brotherly cameraderie, a party snap in their family album. Taking it as a rough diamond, and a glimpse into what was still to come, it is still a party record.”
Remco Takken, jazz critic for De Volkskrant (from the Calibre release of Bells)
In June, 2021 I received the following email from Sean Wilkie:
“I re-checked the timings on the new ezzthetics reissue on Hat Hut. They list Bells as (19.50) on the back cover, although the sound fades out at 19.47. ‘Holy Ghost’ begins the track and finishes at 5.18, the applause comes in immediately, 5.19 – 5.24, interrupted by ‘No Name’ at 5.25, segueing directly to ‘Bells’ at 8.41. The audience hears ‘Bells’ finish at 19.31 and start applauding at 19.32, with a little post-finale flam by the rhythm players to 19.34.
a.Holy Ghost (with applause) 5.24
b.Medley 14.22, of:
i.No Name 3.16
ii.Bells (with applause) 11.06
At the Black Arts benefit gig on 28/3/65, ‘Holy Ghost’ finishes with the thematic melody figure played four times. The slightly shorter version on Bells finishes with it played twice only. On Bells, you can hear the Quintet reprise the theme of ‘Holy Ghost’ at 3.22 for a ‘second wind’ that takes them to 3.52. Then, with occasional prompts from Sunny Murray, Lewis Worrell plays solo, until the ‘Holy Ghost’ theme returns again at 4.35.
The Bells album presents the second and final recordings of both ‘Holy Ghost’ and ‘No Name’.
Dikko Faust has noted that this version of ‘Bells’ is not merely the earliest but also an early arrangement. All subsequent versions, from La Cave to the Love Cry album, have a faster or busier figure - <babadoobeedoo babadoobeedee> - at the beginning, played over the top of the slower <badoo, badoo, badoobeedoo> which opens this version of ‘Bells’.”
And an addendum from Dikko:
“’No Name' is the tune of the same name on The Hilversum Session, so we have two recorded versions. I had thought that short piece on Bells was a version of 'Saints' (another slow lament) but definitely not.
In the liner notes of Live in Greenwich Village: The Complete Impulse Recordings Michael Cuscuna says ‘A version of Saints was recorded at the Village Gate session but no master tape of that performance has survived.’ Had that version survived (& thanks to the Universal fire, no hope of that) it would have been quite interesting comparing it with the Norman Howard-and Don Cherry-group versions.”
Next: Spirits Rejoice