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Albert Ayler and the
Inconsistency of Tune Titles

BAN203

the music

Albert Ayler’s casual attitude towards the titles of his tunes was apparent from as early as the release of Spiritual Unity and the confusion over the two different versions of ‘Spirits’, neither of which conforms to the tracks called ‘Spirits’ on other albums. However, the situation became worse following Albert Ayler’s death when various live recordings shuffled their way onto the market. In the items below Dikko Faust tackles the surviving recordings from the 1966 European tour and Sean Wilkie takes on Live at Slug’s Saloon and the La Cave recordings from discs 3 and 4 of the Holy Ghost box set.

 

1. A Guide to The 1966 European Tour by Dikko Faust

2. Albert Ayler / Slugs’ Saloon by Sean Wilkie

3. Albert Ayler / La Cave, Cleveland, 16 & 17 April, 1966 by Sean Wilkie

 

 

A Guide to The 1966 European Tour by Dikko Faust

 

I've been transcribing Ayler comps for several years now (I play trombone). Part of the struggle of sifting thru versions of the songs and suites is making sense of the different pieces with shifting titles. Jeff Schwartz did a great job on his site (my one issue is with Saints/Prophecy, a topic for another time); I just want to extend his efforts a little further. So below is my guide to the 1966 European tour:

Berlin Nov 3 (Holy Ghost disc 5)
2 Ghosts (F) >1:41, Bells (F) to end
3 Truth is Marching In (Eb)
4 Omega (announced as Jesus) (Eb)
5 Our Prayer (Eb)

Lorrach Nov 7 (Lorrach/Paris 1966)
1 Bells (F)
2 Prophet (E-A-B)
3 Our Prayer (Eb) >3:38, Spirits Rejoice (F#) to end
4 Ghosts (F)
5 Truth is Marching In (Eb)

Rotterdam Nov 8 (Holy Ghost disc 5)
7 Truth is Marching In (Eb)
8 Prophet (Bb?) (mislabelled as Bells)
9 Bells (F) >4:50, Infinite Spirit to end
10 Change Has Come (F min)

Stockholm Nov 10 (Stockholm, Berlin 1966)
1 Truth is Marching In (E)
2 Omega (E)
3 Our Prayer (Eb) >1:53, splice, Bells (F)

Copenhagen Nov 11 (unreleased)
5 Truth is Marching In (E)
6 Water Music (D) >3:26, Bells (F)
7 Our Prayer (Eb)
8 Divine Peacemaker (F-F min)

Paris Nov 13 (Lorrach/Paris 1966)
6 Ghosts (F) >3:37, Prophet (E-A)
7 Divine Peacemaker (F-Fmin-Ebmin)>4:34,Light in Darkness (C#)>6:02, Infinite Spirit (F)
8 All (Japan)(F)>1:17, Our Prayer (Eb) >3:22,Holy Family (F)

Keys may be a bit simplistic, titles are of course from Village Sessions (or earlier official releases). Note Infinite Spirit is a distinct suite of tunes from Spirits Rejoice; each has a different corollary of "La Mayonnaise."

Dikko Faust

***

 

Albert Ayler / Slugs’ Saloon by Sean Wilkie

 

Warning (poor bootleg sound quality)

The sound quality of this recording is extremely poor. Even by bootleg standards, it is poor. Anyone who hasn’t heard Bells or Spirits Rejoice (both on ESP) or Live In Greenwich Village or Love Cry (both on Impulse!) should go to those recordings first – particularly to Live in Greenwich Village, the 2CD set combining Ayler’s first Impulse album with posthumously-released material from the same concerts. The personnel and repertoire on Greenwich Village partially duplicate those of the Slugs’ Saloon recording; and the professional recording setup used for the Impulse recordings better allow us to appreciate the contribution to Ayler’s music of violinist Michel Samson and of the double bass as a sounding instrument.

If and only if an unquenched enthusiasm for the music of this period (1965 - 1967, while his brother Donald played trumpet alongside him) is engendered by those albums, should you bother with the Slugs’ Saloon recording. For enthusiasts of that ilk, however, this recording is an important addition to Ayler’s canon and, on musical terms, a great listen.

 

Which version of “Albert Ayler / Slugs’ Saloon”?

I refer in what follows to the ESP 4025 2CD release, which I take as representative of the longer, or less incomplete, version also available on Get Back, Fruit Tree and ESP-Japan (see discography), of the Ayler Quintet’s performances recorded that night. Apart from the extra, fifth, track (“Initiation”) on this version, the only differences between the ESP album and the single CD Lonehill release (which duplicates the original 2LP releases of the material) are (i) the slightly different timings mostly due to different tape speeds employed in copying and (ii) the fact that the division between “Truth Is Marching In” (sic) and “Our Prayer” (sic) falls in a different place.

The first 1.27 of “Our Prayer” (sic) from the Lonehill issue is the end of the tune being played throughout the previous track, and it is more appropriately placed at the end of the track “Truth Is Marching In” (sic), as it is on the ESP issue. The first track on the Lonehill CD appears to stop during applause at the very end of the tune, but only because the track is faded out very quickly during a brief pause prior to the final reprise of the theme of the tune. This pause was mistaken for the end of the piece by enthusiastic elements of the audience.

 

Accuracy / reliability of the songtitles

The inaccuracy of the titles with which this music was first labelled has long been acknowledged, although every reissue has perpetuated those inaccuracies. But there have been few attempts to correct the titling and those, neither detailed nor complete (with the exception of Dikko Faust, who has arrived independently at an analysis that surpassed my own in at least a couple of important details, which will be noted below).
Historically, the greatest obstacle has been the fact that the quintet were recorded playing several pieces “that do not appear on any other recordings” (as Jeff Schwartz put it, correctly at the time of his excellent work, Albert Ayler: His Life and Music). However, the release of the Holy Ghost box - specifically the recordings of the quintet playing in Cleveland just two weeks prior to the date of the Slugs’ recording - brings to light other versions (sometimes differently arranged) of all of those pieces, and consequently we can now I believe give a comprehensive account of the music released on the Slugs’ albums.

 

Untitled Tunes Y and Z, as performed at La Cave, Cleveland, 16 & 17 April 1966

By comparing them with some of the pieces of music from the Cleveland recordings on the third and fourth discs of the Holy Ghost box, we can identify the compositions performed at Slugs’ which were hitherto unique in Ayler’s canon, and provisionally label them Untitled Tune Y and Z; with neither prejudice nor reference to any other attempt at naming or labelling Ayler’s compositions. (For the moment, I defer any discussion of the structural complexities of these compositions or controversy concerning their identities.)

Untitled Tune Y = the second half only (from 7.37 to the end) of “Untitled”, Track 7 , Disc Three of Holy Ghost (HG 3/7b); it also = the second part only (from 1.58 to 6.03) of “Spirits”, Track 4, Disc Four of Holy Ghost (HG 4/4b), although this version does not feature the introductory section.

Untitled Tune Z = the first half only (from 0.00 to 7.37) of “Untitled”, Track 7 , Disc Three of Holy Ghost (HG 3/7a); it also = “Untitled”, Track 6, Disc Four of Holy Ghost (HG 4/6) in its entirety.

In addition, Spiritual Bells = the first half only (0.00 to 1.48) of “Spiritual Bells”, Track 5, Disc Four of Holy Ghost (HG 4/5a); however, it does not constitute any part of “Prophet/Ghosts/Spiritual Bells”, Track 10, Disc Three of Holy Ghost. (Bells is the piece that succeeds Ghosts in the medley.)

And finally, Water Music = “Untitled” (untitled minor waltz), Track 4, Disc Three of Holy Ghost (HG3/4) in its entirety. The piece was subsequently recorded for Impulse! in August 1969 and was issued with this title on The Last Album.
(Thanks to Dikko Faust for bringing to my attention the version on Impulse!).

 

“Albert Ayler / Slugs’ Saloon” tracklist (short version)

 

With reference to Y and Z, the music from Slugs’ can be analysed thus:

Track 1 Truth Is Marching In (sic) =
a. Untitled Tune Y, theme one

Track 2 Our Prayer (sic) =
a. Infinite Spirit
b. (at 9.55) Truth Is Marching In, theme one

Track 3 Bells (sic) =
a. Our Prayer
b. (at 4.46) Bells
c. (at 17.58) Truth Is Marching In, theme one (five note fragment)

Track 4 [CD 2, track 1] Ghosts (sic) =
a. Truth Is Marching In, theme two [and, at 2.39, theme one]
b. (at 3.48) Spiritual Bells
c. (at 8.49) Untitled Tune Y, theme two
d. (at 16.07) Ghosts
e. (at 22.03) Untitled Tune Z

Track 5 [CD 2, track 2] Initiation (sic) =
a. Water Music
     [a’. (at 3.54) Prophet*]
               [a’’. (at 5.49) Water Music*]
b. (at 8.27) Ghosts
c. (at 10.38) Angels

* [I don’t treat Prophet as a distinct composition. See below. In any case, the melody for Water Music returns at 5.49 and 7.56. But I acknowledge it here because of its ‘status’ – it must count for something that Prophet both derives from an official contractual release during Albert’s lifetime and is not in obvious conflict with any other such song title.]

 

Is the Slugs’ album a complete recording of one long continuous medley?

No.

Tracks 2, 3 and 4 fadeout.
Track 1 segues into Track 2 and Track 5 ends with applause after the music finishes.
Tracks 1, 3, 4 and 5 all fade in.

The notion that “the performance is actually a continuous medley” (Jeff Schwartz, Albert Ayler: His Life and Music, chapter 3, 1965-1967), or that “the concert itself is one long continuous medley” (Arthur Kramer, Lonehill CD notes), is neither supported nor contradicted by the aural evidence. The group certainly can move from one piece into another, but without any testimony from whoever recorded it or access to the tapes, we cannot rule out the possibility that this album features excerpts of medleys from different sets (even taking for granted that all the music was recorded on the same night). If they did play one long continuous medley, then there are gaps of indeterminate size between these four excerpts, with more than one of those gaps likely to be quite substantial (the one continuous medley would have had to be at least 90 minutes in duration).

*****

What follows, below, is a much longer, and slightly more detailed version of the above tracklisting, justifying my analyses and referring to some of the misidentifications which bedevil this period (1965 - 1967) in the discography of Albert Ayler. There is a moderate amount of analysis of the unnamed pieces and of those with a history of misidentification, but I have tried to refrain from bogging down an already lengthy piece much more than necessary: so I neither attempt to unravel the full complexity of the themes or the structures of the better-known pieces nor say very much about the improvised sections.

Information on the indiviual tracks can be accessed from the links below:

Track 1 (10.08) Truth Is Marching In (sic)

Track 2 (12.17) “Our Prayer” (sic)

Track 3 (18.00) “Bells” (sic)

Track 4 [CD 2, track 1] (23.07) “Ghosts” (sic)

Track 5 [CD 2, track 2] (16.32) Initiation (sic)

*****

 

“Albert Ayler / Slugs’ Saloon” tracklist (the long, discursive version)

 

Track 1 (10.08) “Truth Is Marching In” (sic)

a. (00.00 – 10.08) Untitled Tune Y, theme one

The first 42 seconds of this track corresponds almost exactly to the opening of the HG 3/7b version of Tune Y (from 07.37 – 08.22). This section of HG 3/7b establishes that the Slugs’ recording fades-in from the very beginning of a performance of Tune Y; however, whether the quintet were playing another piece immediately prior – as they were at La Cave – we cannot tell. This introduction leads directly to what I’ll call the first theme of Tune Y. I refer to this opening section as introductory, mainly to ease reference to the other version of Tune Y heard on Holy Ghost, HG 4/4b, in which the first theme arrives unannounced.

The first theme of Tune Y unfolds as follows, in the performance recorded at Slugs’:
00.42 - 5 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-a)
00.50 - 10 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-b)
01.01 - 8 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-c)

The first and second lines are played by Albert and Don sometimes in unison, sometimes harmonised and more often with the two lines in counterpoint to each other. The third line is played only by Albert, while Don alternates between the first and second. Additionally, either player may improvise freely while the other alternates between the first and the second.
I take this to constitute the first theme (theme one) of Untitled Tune Y. As melody line-b may precede melody line-a, for example, I will use the expression “multi-melody” in what follows to refer to the appearance of this cluster of melody lines.

Compare with the 16 April 1966 version of Tune Y (HG 3/7b):
08.23 - 5 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-a)
08.31 - 10 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-b)
09.08 - 8 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-c)

And the 17 April 1966 version of Tune Y (HG 4/4b):
01.58 - 10 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-b)
02.12 - 5 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-a)
02.19 - 8 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-c)

Differences between the Cleveland and Slugs’ performances of Tune Y

On both performances of this tune recorded in Cleveland, it subsequently develops in the following way: the first theme or multi-melody gives way to a more melodic, less rhythmic section (I think that the key is F and it stays the same; the change is marked by a break from the rhythm of theme one to a loose time feel). It begins with a distinctive line of melody heard at 10.03 on HG 3/7 and at 3.04 on HG 4/4. This section, which I shall loosely refer to as a bridge, leads in turn to a second theme, a two line melody phrase (also in the same key) repeated as needed. This second theme appears at 10.27 on HG 3/7 and 3.48 on HG 4/4. (The shared key of the melodies aside, the main reason for regarding this as the second theme of Tune Y, rather than as a different composition (into which they have segued), is that the first theme of Tune Y reappears in both instances (HG 3/7 at 13.46; HG 4/4 at 5.17), after the improvised sections.)

On the Slugs’ recording, the group appear to move into the bridge section of the tune at 01.36. A similar loose time feel dominates. The lines they play are not the same as those heard on the bridge sections of HG3/7b and HG4/4b however, and at 02.07 the multi-melody of the first theme returns. It is reprised intermittently, at 03.35, 06.12, 07.37, 08.45, until the music ends, at 10.06, to applause. Almost immediately, they begin playing Infinite Spirit.

There is a very brief ‘false’ end to this piece, at approximately 08.43, where the band briefly halt and the audience applaud, before the musicians again reprise the first theme of Tune Y. It is this point at which, on the Lonehill CD, Track 1 is faded out, with Track 2 fading in sharply on the same applause. On that CD, Michel Samson is clearly heard holding a note across the brief gap between the end of Tune Y, theme one and Infinite Spirit.

[back to tracklist]

 

Track 2 (12.17) “Our Prayer” (sic)

a. (00.00 – 09.57) Infinite Spirit. [01.27 – 12.10 on Lonehill]

This is the piece consistently misidentified as Spirits Rejoice on Disc 3 of Holy Ghost. The best way to clarify the difference is to listen to Live In Greenwich Village, which contains representative versions of both tunes.

Infinite Spirit has three melodic themes or melodies, typically played in the same sequence. (Note how closely the timings match for the two full versions on the Holy Ghost box set.)

HG 3/2 “Spirits Rejoice” (sic – actually Infinite Spirit)
00.00 1st theme
00.56 2nd theme
01.41 3rd theme
03.06 3rd theme again, but leading back to
03.39 1st theme

HG 3/9 “Spirits Rejoice” (sic – actually Infinite Spirit)
00.00 1st theme
00.57 2nd theme
01.40 3rd theme
03.10 3rd theme again, but leading back to
03.42 1st theme

The version on Live In Greenwich Village follows the same sequence with the following timings:
00.00 / 01.25 / 01.57 / 03.49 / 04.23.
The sequence of the version recorded at Slugs’ differs only in that the band does not reprise the third theme before returning to the first:

Slugs’ Saloon, Track 2, “Our Prayer” (sic)
00.00 1st theme/melody of Infinite Spirit
00.57 2nd theme/melody of Infinite Spirit
01.35 3rd theme/melody of Infinite Spirit
02.15 1st theme/melody of Infinite Spirit

At 02.48, the first of three long stretches of improvisation ensues, a sequence which ends abruptly at 09.57, with the introduction of a new theme

b. (09.57 – 12.17) Truth Is Marching In, theme one [12.10 – 14.54 on Lonehill]

This is the slower, rubato theme, which dominates the first four minutes of the December 1966 recording heard on the Greenwich Village album for example, and to which the band will typically return at the end of the piece (at 11.03 on the Greenwich Village recording). The second theme usually follows the first without much pause or improvisation, but the Slugs’ recording fades too soon to reveal whether or not this performance adhered to that pattern. (We can only speculate whether Track 4 continues this performance after a break in the recording).

[back to tracklist]

 

Track 3 (18.00) “Bells” (sic)

a. (00.00 – 04.46) Our Prayer

This is uncontroversial. Our Prayer, composed by Donald Ayler, is in the same key as the first theme of Truth Is Marching In and has a similar time feel. This may have contributed to the mistaken impression that Track 3 continues the music from the end of Track 2 (the ‘one long medley’ theory) or to the mislabelling of the previous track.

b. (04.46 – 17.58) Bells

Again, this is fairly uncontroversial. Bells has two themes, the first typically being reprised at the end of a performance. (The first theme is quite complex, with Donald and Albert each playing a sequence of melody-phrases that is in constant counterpoint to the other). Potential confusion arises mainly from the fact that the notorious single-sided LP, Bells (on ESP) in fact contained a medley of three pieces, in which Bells was the third and last (after Holy Ghost and No Name).

On the Bells LP, the first theme of Bells appears at 8.42; the second – the jaunty and more hummable one – at 10.40; with the first reprised at 17.08. The same sequence is heard over a much shorter time frame on the Love Cry album (on Impulse!) recorded in 1967 (0.00 / 1.11 / 1.52)

Slugs’ Saloon, Track 3, “Bells” (sic)
04.46 – Bells, first theme
08.27 – Bells, second theme (also appearing at 10.20, 11.38 and 13.20)
13.58 – Bells, first theme (and again at 16.51)

c. (17.58 – 18.00) five note fragment, probably Truth Is Marching In (theme one)

Five even notes, the fourth a tone above the others. (Only the first two are heard on the Lonehill release.)

It sounds as though Bells has been brought to a close at 17.55 with its last note fading to 17.58, at which point – just before the track fades out – Albert plays this intriguing phrase. I think Dikko Faust is correct to say that this is the first theme of Truth Is Marching In commencing (the second of the five notes should be heard as an ‘extra’ – mentally removing the second of the five notes, while leaving its space intact, leaves us with the opening four notes of Truth Is Marching In. And it’s in the same key as version on track 2 of this album (although these are both a little higher than the version on Greenwich Village).

The main significance of that fact is that it further weakens the ‘one long medley’ theory (without by any means refuting it), by strengthening the case for the recording of two or more sets; Ghosts being played twice – see below (tracks 4 and 5) – in addition to Truth Is Marching In twice beginning.

[back to tracklist]

 

Track 4 [CD 2, track 1] (23.07) “Ghosts” (sic)

a. (00.00 – 03.48) Truth Is Marching In, theme two/theme one

The recording fades in on a performance of Truth Is Marching In. The band are playing the second theme, which they eventually accelerate, launching into some high-octane simultaneous improvisation at around 00.40. At 02.39, the first, slow, rubato theme of Truth Is Marching In appears. (Could this be the end of the performance of Truth Is Marching In commenced on Track 2? Or indeed Track 3?)

b. (03.48 – 08.49) Spiritual Bells

The title of this piece may be controversial. This is the tune that Jeff Schwartz refers to as “a mutation of the first phrase of The Star Spangled Banner”: the melodies share the four note phrase sung as ‘Oh say can you’.

It can be heard briefly on the April 1966 Cleveland recordings on Holy Ghost, on the first half of “Spiritual Bells” (HG 4/5): there is an abrupt cut-off at around 1.48 on the issued track, and a different piece of music is playing when the sound returns. However, the tune is not heard at all on HG 3/10 – “Prophet / Ghosts / Spiritual Bells” (sic) – where it is simply Bells that is heard after Ghosts.

For these reasons, I regard this song title as provisional, but it doesn’t create major conflict with any other title or song, so I prefer it to an “untitled” labelling. (Incidentally, the title “Spiritual Bells” can be found in a May 1967 article about Ayler in Coda magazine, written by Stu Broomer. It is impossible, however, to ascertain which – if any – piece of music Broomer is referring to. Thanks again to Dikko Faust, for drawing my attention to this.)

On this performance, the melody is reprised at 07.52. At 08.25, Albert changes the key of the music, possibly quoting something, and leads the band into a rhythmic coda to the piece.

c. (08.49 – 16.07) Untitled Tune Y, theme two

This performance of Tune Y material begins abruptly with the distinctive melody line of what I have called the bridge of the tune. It appears at 10.03 on HG 3/7 and 3.04 on HG 4/4. On the Slugs’ recording, the bridge is no more than a couple of lines of melody, leading swiftly to the second theme of Tune Y at 09.04. On the Cleveland recordings, it is a little more expansive. The second theme is heard at 10.27 on HG 3/7 and 3.48 on HG 4/4.
On this recording, the second theme is repeated for about 30 seconds. It does not reappear. The following six and a half minutes feature solos by Albert, Donald and then Michel, ending with a minute or so of collective playing.

d. (16.07 – 22.03) Ghosts

I can’t imagine these words – this far into a lengthy discussion of the correct tracklisting of an Albert Ayler bootleg recording – being read by anybody who can’t easily identify and at least hum along with this tune. The melody appears again at 19.00, sandwiched in between two fast and furious improvisations.

e. (22.03 – 23.07) Untitled Tune Z

This is the piece that several writers, notably Jeff Schwartz (in Albert Ayler: His Life and Music, chapter 3) have identified as Auld Lang Syne. I don’t think it is. I am Scottish, but I only know the words to the first verse, so I claim no special authority – it just doesn’t sound anything like Auld Lang Syne, unless you’ve had as much to drink as the Scots usually have at midnight on Hogmanay.

Untitled Tune Z = the first half only (from 0.00 to 7.37) of “Untitled”, Track 7 , Disc Three of Holy Ghost (HG 3/7a); it also = “Untitled”, Track 6, Disc Four of Holy Ghost (HG 4/6) in its entirety.

There is quite a lot to the performances of Tune Z on Holy Ghost, and it is disappointing that the track on the Slugs’ album fades out while they are still expounding the main melody. There is no evidence of this piece anywhere else on the Slugs’ album, so it is likely that a sizeable segment at least of the performance went unrecorded.

[back to tracklist]

 

Track 5 [CD 2, track 2] (16.30) “Initiation” (sic)

a. (00.00 – 08.27) Water Music

Water Music = “Untitled”, Track 4, Disc Three of Holy Ghost (HG 3/4) in its entirety. (It is also referred to, in HG, as an “untitled minor waltz”.) I must thank Dikko Faust for pointing out that this piece appeared on The Last Album on Impulse! An mp3 of that later (August 1969) version of this tune can be found by going to the The Last Album page in the discography section of this site).

The Slugs’ recording fades in on the melody of Water Music. At 03.54, Albert calls for a fast and furious improvisational section with the three note call (repeated) known as “Prophet”, from the Spirits Rejoice album. I’m inclined to regard this as a signal rather than a melody (let alone a tune or composition): a signal to the rhythm section to play this particular fast and furious rhythm; and to the soloists, to improvise upon it (Albert and/or Donald first - the rhythm will calm down when it is Michel’s turn). On that basis, I’m reluctant to annotate this as a segue from one composition into another: my analysis of this music from the outset was predicated upon a crude but time-honoured distinction between the tune and the solos. Whether Prophet is a distinct composition or simply an improvisational/soloing section within a greater compositional framework, the melody for Water Music reappears at 05.49 and 07.56.

b. (08.27 – 10.38) Ghosts

A short, melody-only version of Albert’s signature tune, which might be taken for (weak) evidence that track 5 and track 4 come from recordings of different sets.

c. (10.38 – 16.22) Angels

This is a novelty in the Ayler canon: a version of Angels that is not a duet with Call Cobbs Jr. providing keyboard accompaniment for Albert. This version is particularly noteworthy for the contribution of Michel Samson, who solos over a gentle shuffle for ninety seconds, between the saxophonist’s two expositions of the tune. The melody is reprised at 14.06 with some nice drum rolls from Ronald Shannon Jackson.

[back to tracklist]

 

Sean Wilkie,
March – July 2009.

(Many thanks to Mike Marinetto, who insisted I borrow the Slugs’ Saloon album from him and who wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was also Mike who introduced me to the Holy Ghost box set and the La Cave 1966 recordings therein. My world was made richer by his generosity and his conviction. - S. W.)

***

 

Albert Ayler / La Cave, Cleveland, 16 & 17 April, 1966 by Sean Wilkie

 

Preamble

What follows is a tracklisting for discs three and four of Revenant’s Albert Ayler / Holy Ghost box set, slightly fuller and more detailed than the one given in the book contained within. It corrects a couple of mistitlings; and indicates several places in the music where new compositions are introduced without acknowledgement from either the CD track markings or the book, as well as the point at which there is an abrupt and unannounced break of unknown duration in the recording. It names at least one of the untitled tracks, and it unwraps the largest untitled piece, uncovering two smaller tracks within, both to be found - albeit unworkably mistitled - on the Albert Ayler at Slugs’ Saloon bootleg albums, recorded two weeks later by the same group (with the replacement on bass of Mutawef Shaheed, then known as Clyde Shy, by Lewis Worrell).

First, the short version of the tracklisting. Then, a few short explanatory notes. Lastly, a long, discursive version of the tracklisting, justifying some of my analyses and explaining a few of the misidentifications which have bedevilled this period in the discography of Albert Ayler.

 

The format of the tracklisting

The given name for each track is in capitalised lower case, eg “Ghosts”, and the correct name is given in capitals, eg GHOSTS, even where the given name is correct. A forward slash (/) indicates a continuous performance, a segue to the next composition without a pause in the music or the recording. Three dots (…) indicate an incomplete recording. Where multiple compositional elements are included within a single track, I indicate, by the CD timing, the point during the track at which any new element is introduced (typically, the commencement of a melody).

All other relevant matters will be addressed in the short explanatory notes that follow (or in the long discursive version of the tracklisting).

 

The Tracklisting (short version)

 

Disc 3, Holy Ghost

Albert Ayler Quintet at La Cave, Cleveland, Sat April 16 & Sun April 17, 1966

1. Introduction by Peter Bergman

2. Spirits Rejoice (sic) = INFINITE SPIRIT

3. D.C. = AWAKE NU (Cherry, arr. Ayler)

4. Untitled minor waltz (sic) = WATER MUSIC

5. Our Prayer = OUR PRAYER (Don Ayler)

6. Introduction by Peter Bergman

7. Untitled [F# Tune] (sic) = a. UNTITLED TUNE Z [F# tune] /
                                               = b. (at 7.40) UNTITLED TUNE Y

8. Ghosts = GHOSTS

9. Spirits Rejoice (sic) = INFINITE SPIRIT

10. Medley: Prophet / Ghosts / Spiritual Bells (sic) = a. PROPHET /
                                                                                         = b. (at 6.10) GHOSTS /
                                                                                         = c. (at 7.22) BELLS

11. Our Prayer / Spirits Rejoice (sic) = a. OUR PRAYER (Don Ayler) /
                                                                 = b. (at 8.32) INFINITE SPIRIT [First Theme only]

 

Disc 4, Holy Ghost

1. ...Untitled / Truth Is Marching In = a. …UNTITLED [possibly Universal Indians] /
                                                           = b. (at 6.26) TRUTH IS MARCHING IN

2. Spirits = SPIRITS

3. Zion Hill = ZION HILL /

4. Spirits (sic) = a. SPIRITS [Theme only] /
                           = b. (at 1.58) UNTITLED TUNE Y /

5. Spiritual Bells (sic) = a. SPIRITUAL BELLS …
                                       = b. (at 1.51) … UNTITLED TUNE Y [Coda only]

6. Untitled [F# Tune] = UNTITLED TUNE Z [F# Tune]

 

In what follows

HG 3/7, for example = Holy Ghost, disc 3, track 7. HG 4/4b, for example = the second part of disc 4, track 4; different parts indicating different compositions found in sequence within the same track of the CD. When referring to sections or points in the music by timing, I always drop these letter-part suffixes (e.g. HG 4/4, 6.07 – 7.03).

Untitled Tunes Y & Z and other unfamiliar titles

Earlier this year, I wrote a tracklisting for the Slugs’ Saloon album, in which – by cross-reference with sections of the untitled and mistitled tracks on discs three and four of Holy Ghost I identified the music which couldn’t otherwise be named in accordance with any prior release of recordings of his music. I labelled these sections Untitled Tune Y and Untitled Tune Z (this latter is the one called the F# tune on Holy Ghost). And I do the same here to give an almost complete tracklisting for the music recorded at La Cave.

Untitled Tune Y = the second half only (from 7.40 to the end) of “Untitled [F# Tune]” (HG 3/7b); it also = the second part only (from 1.58 to 6.03) of “Spirits” (HG 4/4b), although this version (HG 4/4b) does not feature the introductory section (HG 3/7 7.40 – 8.23; also “Truth Is Marching In” (sic) from Slug’s Saloon, 0.00 – 0.42).

Untitled Tune Z = the first half only (from 0.00 to 7.39) of “Untitled [F# Tune]” (HG 3/7a); it also = “Untitled [F# Tune]” (HG 4/6) in its entirety.

In addition, Spiritual Bells = the first half only (0.00 to 1.48) of “Spiritual Bells” (HG 4/5a): however, it does not constitute any part of “Medley: Prophet – Ghosts – Spiritual Bells” (HG 3/10); Bells is the composition which succeeds Ghosts in this medley.

And finally, Water Music = “Untitled” or “untitled minor waltz” (HG3/4) in its entirety. The piece was subsequently recorded for Impulse! in August 1969 and was issued with this title on The Last Album. (Thanks again to Dikko Faust for bringing to my attention this version on Impulse!).

One might imagine it to be a straightforward matter to reverse the trick and cross-reference the music here with the relevant sections of the mistitled pieces on the Slugs’ Saloon album; but not if one had much grasp of either the multifarious nature of Albert Ayler’s music or his restless experimentation with the ways it was performed. Were we taking the performances at Slugs’ as evidence, then Untitled Tune Y would itself more plausibly be a medley of two quite distinct pieces, sharing little but the same key. I note this here simply to be absolutely clear that it is these recordings, and not the Slugs’ Saloon album, which support the idea that HG 3/7 comprises two compositions and two only.

Bass detected … and other reasons to be cheerful …

When I wrote the tracklisting for Albert Ayler / Slugs’ Saloon, earlier this year, I referred to the period of his music to which these belonged as 1965 – 1967. Although there is sense to that, it is also possible to get a bit closer and to hear the music from 1965 (the ESP albums Bells and Spirits Rejoice) as transitional, somewhere between the music of 1964 and the very different music of 1966/67. This is particularly so with Spirits Rejoice, where Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray reunite, augmented by Henry Grimes, to impart the fluid, rubbery textures of 1964 to music whose thematic bases had begun to develop towards the more classical structures favoured by the music of the later group(s).

One strong consideration with me for thinking distinctly of the music of 1966-67 is that, while the group continued to play older material, particularly Bells (also Prophet and Ghosts), and to develop some of the new ideas for small ensemble playing suggested by those 1965 albums, it is in large part through the new material - such as Truth Is Marching In and Our Prayer - that Donald Ayler truly establishes a unique role for himself in his brother’s music.

The La Cave recordings would be invaluable if only for the light they shed on the Slugs recordings. But on their own terms, not only are they vastly superior quality recordings than those from Slugs’, particularly with regard to bass and drums; and not only do they provide astonishing evidence of Michel Samson’s immediate integration into the group’s musics; but they also present us with the earliest known recorded performances of no fewer than eight compositions (Infinite Spirit, Water Music, Our Prayer, Tune Z, Tune Y, Truth Is Marching In, Zion Hill and Spiritual Bells), as well as a fascinating final outing for Spirits, never otherwise recorded in performance by the two Ayler brothers.

Acknowledgement

Finally, let me at the outset acknowledge the input of Dikko Faust, who posted his own breakdown of the La Cave recordings onto this site’s messageboard back in June 2009, while I was fine-tuning my Slugs’ Saloon tracklisting. That piece - Slugs’ - was my own in conception, albeit improved by his comments and suggestions. This piece owes him a deeper debt; for Dikko’s breakdown guided my listening to some of the tracks that I had been largely able to ignore while writing the tracklisting for the Slugs’ recording. However, he has had no control over, and has not seen, what I have written here and while he certainly deserves to share any credit that accrues, the blame for this piece is all mine.

 

Tracklisting (long, discursive version)

Information on the individual tracks can be accessed from the links below:
Holy Ghost: Disc 3
Saturday First Set
1 (spoken introduction by Peter Bergman)
2 Spirits Rejoice
3 D.C.
4 [untitled minor waltz]
5 Our Prayer
Second Set
6 (spoken introduction by Peter Bergman)
7 [F# tune]
8 Ghosts
Sunday First Set
9 Spirits Rejoice
10 Prophet / Ghosts / Spiritual Bells
11 Our Prayer / Spirits Rejoice

Holy Ghost: Disc 4
Sunday Second Set
1 [untitled] / Truth Is Marching In
2 Spirits
3 Zion Hill
4 Spirits
5 Spiritual Bells
6 [F# tune]

 

Disc Three, Holy Ghost

Albert Ayler (tenor sax) Donald Ayler (trumpet) Michel Samson (violin) Mutawef Shaheed, then known as Clyde Shy (bass) Ronald Shannon Jackson (drums)

First set, Saturday April 16, 1966

1. Introduction by Peter Bergman

This, as well as HG 3/6, furnish a little biographical information about Samson. I shan’t recount these details here: but I shall note what is truly astounding, if the account in the book is accurate (and it accords with what Nat Hentoff, in his sleeve notes for Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village (Impulse!), quotes Albert as saying); that Samson first met the Ayler brothers and the other musicians on the afternoon of the day before, having never previously heard their music.

 

2. Spirits Rejoice (sic) = INFINITE SPIRIT

This is the earliest known recording of Infinite Spirit, a piece consistently misidentified as Spirits Rejoice on Disc 3 of the Holy Ghost box; it is not, however, the tune of that name, which can be heard on several other albums, most notably Spirits Rejoice (ESP) and Live in Greenwich Village (impulse!). The simplest way to clarify the difference is by listening to Live In Greenwich Village, which contains representative versions of both tunes.

This error is excusable, so strong is the opening melodic phrase of Infinite Spirit’s second theme, which shares with the opening theme of Spirits Rejoice, the run-in phrase and the first three on-the-beat notes of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. As a matter of fact, Spirits Rejoice and Infinite Spirit are in different keys (F and G, I think) and there are now enough versions available, recorded at different times, of both tunes, that the fact of their difference needn’t be dwelt upon. (As it happens, the first theme of Spirits Rejoice shares a couple of other phrases with the opening bars of La Marseillaise and is therefore quite a bit ‘closer’ to the opening of that piece than is Infinite Spirit’s second theme.)

What Infinite Spirit and Spirits Rejoice actually share is something structural. Now, it depends how you individuate them, how you count them; but let’s say that they both have more than one theme or tune. In each case, the first theme returns at the very end of the piece, but the solo or solos are framed or structured by a different theme (the way I count them, this is, in both cases, the third theme).

In fact, it could be argued that Infinite Spirit doesn’t have any ‘solo’ at all, merely a fourth theme whose melody (for saxophone only) is embellished or ad libbed by Albert: while Spirits Rejoice, by contrast, is designed for unleashing a succession of improvisers, its ‘third’ theme launching successive soloists. In both cases, however, the third theme repeats (again) immediately before the first theme brings the whole piece to an end.

Infinite Spirit has three melodies or melodic themes for the ensemble, typically played in the same sequence. (Note how closely the timings match for the two full versions heard on this disc)

HG 3/2 “Spirits Rejoice” (sic – actually Infinite Spirit)
00.00 1st theme
00.56 2nd theme
01.41 3rd theme
03.06 3rd theme again, but leading back to
03.39 1st theme

HG 3/9 “Spirits Rejoice” (sic – actually Infinite Spirit)
00.00 1st theme
00.57 2nd theme
01.40 3rd theme
03.10 3rd theme again, but leading back to
03.42 1st theme

The version of Infinite Spirit on Live In Greenwich Village follows the same sequence with the following timings:
00.00 / 01.25 / 01.57 / 03.49 / 04.23.

On this version (HG 3/2), when the third theme finishes (or pauses) at 2.24, Albert comes forward to play in a rubato, preaching style, with a congregational backing in freetime from Samson and Jackson, and perhaps Shaheed (Shy) as well. As I suggested, one could argue that this is in fact the fourth theme of the piece: what Albert plays is very similar to what he plays the following night (HG 3/9), with several strong lines of melody identifiable from the very beginning of the forty-odd seconds of both versions of this section; and still clearly recognisable in a longer version of this section, recorded at the Village Theatre in February 1967.

Albert briefly hints at a change of key at around 2.54, but returns quickly to the original key for the final line of his ‘solo’   (2.59 - 3.06), before reintroducing the third theme. The key change in the version recorded the following night is more pronounced – the band clearly following him on that occasion – and the final line of this ‘solo’ or ‘sermon’ is embellished internally, with a pause and a repetition, which account for it lasting a few seconds longer than the version here.

Finally, following the reprise of the third and the first themes, there is a little ‘tag’ phrase at 4.11, which guides the piece to a close at 4.29. This phrase is prominent in the extended ending of HG 3/9, below: it does not feature on the 1967 Village Theatre version, however.

At Slugs’ Saloon, a fortnight after the concert recorded here, the first three themes are performed in a time-frame similar to the one on these recordings. However, on that occasion, the piece was part of a medley and it was played in a shortened form: Albert omits both the solo/preaching section and the reprise of the third theme, returning immediately to the first:

Slugs’ Saloon, Track 2, “Our Prayer” (sic)
00.00 1st theme/melody of Infinite Spirit
00.57 2nd theme/melody of Infinite Spirit
01.35 3rd theme/melody of Infinite Spirit
02.15 1st theme/melody of Infinite Spirit

One might also compare the versions recorded in Rotterdam, 8 November, HG 5/9b (4.50 – 10.51), and in Paris, 13 November, Lorrach/Paris 1966).

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3. D.C. = AWAKE NU (Cherry, arr. Ayler)

D.C. is an arrangement of a Don Cherry tune, recorded later that year and released as Awake Nu on the album Where Is Brooklyn? (Blue Note). Albert had already recorded his own version - released with the D.C. title on Spirits Rejoice (ESP) - when he performed this concert. Its origins can be traced to Infant Happiness (sic) from the Hilversum Session (Osmosis) album, recorded in November 1964, which finds Albert and Don Cherry commencing their performance with the complete theme of Awake Nu (a short melody of about 8 bars, which is repeated once). When they reach the end of the melody the second time, they repeat the closing phrase several times. (This repeated closing phrase constitutes the ‘main theme’, as it were, of the D.C. arrangement). Indeed, before commencing their solos, they play the rest of the Awake Nu melody in counterpoint to the repetition of the closing phrase (henceforth, the D.C phrase).

The D.C. arrangement of Awake Nu, however, is not simply a short riff taken from a couple of bars of the Awake Nu melody, and lengthened by repetition. Were that so, jazz would be sufficient precedent to credit it as a composition to Albert Ayler, with its nod-of-the-title sufficient payment of moral royalty to Cherry. In fact, the full melody of Awake Nu is played at least once on both extant versions of D.C.

The version recorded the previous September at Judson Hall starts in much the same way as the one heard here: the    D.C. phrase is played four or five times, and Donald bursts from the traps with some fierce soloing, which ends when the D.C. phrase returns (at 2.05). It is at this point (2.16) on the Spirits Rejoice version that Albert gives a loose but recognisable rendition of the full Awake Nu melody (just once through) in a brief rubato respite from the fairly furious rhythm which is relaunched by the D.C. phrase (at 2.31), for the next soloist (at 2.40).

During the performance recorded at La Cave, this section occurs later on, only when the three individual solos have finished: Albert starts playing the melody of Awake Nu at 4.05, with an ad-libbed extension of the opening phrase; reaching the D.C. phrase at 4.26.

The structure of the La Cave performance is straightforward. The D.C. phrase is played several times, for ten to twenty seconds, fading after a soloist emerges; after about a minute, Albert reintroduces the D.C. phrase and the sequence repeats. Donald, Michel and Albert solo, in that order.

At the end of Albert’s solo (3.44), the D.C. phrase reappears. At 4.05 Albert introduces the Awake Nu melody, which he plays just once, leading back into the D.C. phrase, which launches a final collective free-for-all. This group improvisation comes to a sudden halt at 5.20, and the D.C. phrase is revisited once more, ending the performance. (By contrast, on the Judson Hall, 1965 version, towards the very end of the piece (at 7.17), Albert plays the full Awake Nu melody line again.)

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4. Untitled / Untitled minor waltz (sic) = WATER MUSIC

Yet another piece heard here in its earliest recorded version, Water Music was recorded at Slugs’ Saloon a fortnight hence (00.00 – 08.27 of “Initiation”) in an arrangement which incorporated, as a contrasting middle section, the faster rhythm and ‘hotter’ improvisations of Prophet). The name, Water Music, comes from the last known recorded version of the tune, released on The Last Album (Impulse!).

Water Music is dominated by a short melody line which repeats many times over the course of this and each of the other three known recordings of this piece. A static-then-descending eight note figure (dah-dah-dah dada-dada-dah) is  played, repeated one step lower in a related scale and again, another step lower, ending, the first time at least, with two further notes which rise a fifth, back to the tone with which the melody began. (Call this – the three 8-note figures with a final, responding phrase – the melody-line; and any multiple of it (even one), the main melody.)

The melody line doesn’t repeat immediately; and the leading voices appear to decide, not merely how to fill the space between one melody line and the next, but also how long or large that space will be. There is no rigid or fixed tempo and the melody line can be played in any way at all; languidly, perfunctorily, passionately. The accompaniment is sparing and the music expands or contracts between each statement of the melody, in accordance with whatever Albert unleashes with the final phrase of the melody line.

This version suggests an AABA or an ABA structure; where what I have called the main melody is in fact the A section, with a B section heard at 1.16 – 1.47 and 4.06 – 4.35. That structure isn’t particularly evident on any of the other recordings of Water Music, and I will not pursue the idea here.

Donald sits out on this piece, not inaccurately described by Ben Young as a duet. Providing dense but articulated support as Albert outlines the melody, violinist Michel Samson comes to the fore, not merely in two ‘solos’ of length, but also in the interludes between Albert’s statements of the melody. Indeed, it is misleading to say that Ayler plays the melody while Samson supports; for the violinist often follows the saxophonist with the melody line, or some part of it, so as to suggest a melody-in-the-round.

It seems miraculous that the two should have first played together only the day before. Ayler’s interest in putting more strings into his music was already apparent: as well as the twin basses on Spirits Rejoice, he had earlier recorded with Joel Freedman (March 1965, for Impulse!) and, according to the information provided with the box set, re-engaged the cellist for several concerts in February 1966 (without, apparently, upsetting Charles Tyler).

0.00 – 1.09 main melody
1.10 – 1.15 two notes, possibly indicating a change of key? (tag/transition)
1.16 – 1.47 other melody lines: B section?
1.47 – 2.04 main melody (by Samson only)
2.04 – 2.35 main melody
2.36 – 3.26 Michel Samson ‘solo’
3.26 – 3.58 main melody
3.59 – 4.05 two note tag / transition phrase
4.06 – 4.35 other melody lines: B section?
4.35 – 5.05 main melody
5.05 – 6.12 Michel Samson ‘solo’
6.12 – 7.03 main melody

A comparison of the first two known versions of Water Music gives some hint of Ayler’s restless experimentation: at Slugs, he adds Donald’s trumpet - and a complete change of the musical mood - by interpolating a short version of Prophet into the middle of the performance.

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5. Our Prayer = OUR PRAYER (Donald Ayler)

Credited to Donald Ayler, this beautiful melody is also heard here in its earliest known recorded version. The melody is played powerfully on trumpet, with Albert providing what begins as unison support, swiftly becomes counterpoint, briefly transforms into a suspended pulse, and finally resolves into a near-berserk, free accompaniment; all the while, nevertheless, constrained and structured by the melody which Donald delivers with astonishing force.

The “three blind mice coda” played by Albert (“cut off their tales with a carving knife – Three blind mice”) heard at 3.50 - and again at the end - is, according to Dikko Faust, exclusive to this performance. Michel Samson is briefly featured    (3.56 – 4.48), with audible and able support from Mutawef Shaheed (Clyde Shy), before the trumpet returns with the melody and some impassioned, ferocious accompaniment from tenor sax. If I decide to be cremated, I think that this will be the piece of music to which I’ll be set ablaze.

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Second set, Saturday April 16, 1966

6. Introduction by Peter Bergman

Bergman mentions a concert in Amsterdam at which Samson and Ornette Coleman performed together, although it is surely anachronistic to credit Samson with Ornette’s decision to take up violin.

 

7. Untitled [F# tune] (sic) = TUNE Z [F# Tune] / TUNE Y

This long track is, I have suggested, a medley of two compositions, both heard here for the first time, both played the following night, both performed and recorded in some manner or form at Slugs’ Saloon a fortnight hence; neither piece ever being recorded or known to be performed again.

7a (0.00 – 7.39) UNTITLED TUNE Z [aka F# Tune] /

The first piece I call Untitled Tune Z (it is the second of two untitled tunes on the Slugs’ recordings). The box-set’s book refers to it as the F# tune and Dikko Faust labels its two themes “old folks’ Stephen Fosterish sentimental dirge” and “bugle charge”. Whatever name it bears, nothing about these performances suggests that it wasn’t fit for purpose; neither its stately, memorable first theme nor the fast, jaunty, rhythmic second one that follows (at 2.01). Having established a lively atmosphere, the second theme cedes (at 2.27) to tenor sax then trumpet solos; with the first theme recurring at 4.21, before Samson’s feature (5.10 – 6.25) and, finally, the first theme once more.

More’s the pity, Tune Z is barely heard on the Slugs’ Saloon album; only about a minute of its first theme, at the very end of “Ghosts” (sic). The La Cave recordings are effectively the only document of this piece.

7b (7.40 – 15.39) / UNTITLED TUNE Y

This is the premiere and definitive recording of this tune, and a philosopher’s stone for understanding the music recorded at Slugs’ Saloon a fortnight hence. I identify (nominally) six parts of the performance (taking ‘the solos’ as one only), although I suggest that there could have been more; that the composition includes the possibility of reprising the second part after the improvisation (the fifth part). In the following breakdown, my dry quasi-technical name for the ‘part’ of the composition is followed by the more evocative labels applied by Dikko Faust

7.40 – 8.23 Introduction (sentimental Fosterish tearjerker, old mill stream)

The main reason I refer to this section as the introduction, rather than as its first theme, is to simplify reference to the version recorded the following night which did not feature this section. Whatever the reason for its omission on that occasion, the introduction can be heard also on the Slugs’ Saloon album (“Truth Is Marching In” (sic), 0.00 to 0.42). Indeed, it is this version of Tune Y (HG 3/7b), in which we hear the introduction from its very beginning, which suggests that the recording at Slugs’ Saloon commenced only a split-second after the band started playing the tune.

8.23 – 10.03 First theme (galloping fox hunt 6/8 gallop)

08.23 - 5 note ‘theme one’ melody phrase (melody line-a)
08.31 - 10 note ‘theme one’ melody phrase (melody line-b)
09.08 - 8 note ‘theme one’ melody phrase (melody line-c)

The ‘a’ and ‘b’ lines are played by Albert and Don sometimes in unison, sometimes harmonised and as often with the two lines in counterpoint to each other. The ‘c’ line is played only by Albert, while Don alternates between the other two. Additionally, either player may improvise freely while the other alternates between the ‘a’ and ‘b’ lines. I take this to constitute the first theme (theme one) of Untitled Tune Y. As melody line-b may precede melody line-a (as it does the following night, for example), I use the expression “multi-melody” in what follows to refer to the appearance of this cluster of melody lines.

Compare with the 17 April 1966 version of Tune Y (HG 4/4b):
01.58 - 10 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-b)
02.12 - 5 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-a)
02.19 - 8 note theme one melody phrase (melody line-c)

10.03 – 10.26 Bridge (slow dance intro)

On both of the performances recorded in Cleveland, Tune Y subsequently develops in the following way: the first theme or multi-melody gives way to a more melodic, less rhythmic section (I think that the key is F and it stays the same; the change is marked by a break from the rhythm of theme one to a loose time feel). It begins with a distinctive line of melody heard at 10.03 on HG 3/7 and at 3.04 on HG 4/4. This section, which I shall loosely refer to as a bridge, leads in turn to a second theme, a two line melody phrase (also in the same key) repeated as needed.

10.26 – 10.40 Second theme (tarantella)

This appears at 10.26 on HG 3/7 and 3.48 on HG 4/4. The shared key of the melodies aside, the main reason for regarding this as the second theme of Tune Y, rather than as a different composition (into which they have segued), is that the first theme of Tune Y reappears in one instance (HG 4/4 at 5.17), after the improvised section, and that it might have in the other (HG 3/7 at 13.46)

10.40 – 13.53 Solos (mayhem / Michel solo gallop)

Donald takes the first solo, with Albert still intoning the second theme. The baton is passed to Michel Samson at around 11.55. The violinist riffs upon melody line-b at 12.40, then solos for a further minute before returning to this riff at 13.46, perhaps expecting the return of the first theme.

13.53 – 15.12 Tune Y coda (staccato dance)

Instead of recapitulating the first theme (as they do the following night), Albert leads the group into a closing section which is evidently well rehearsed; Donald follows the line immediately and even offers a little counterpoint, while Shannon Jackson commences what is virtually a long drum roll to the end. The rhythm of this melody is similar to the first theme’s melody line-a; but whether we classify it as a variation of the first theme or as a distinct, final element or part of the composition, the musicians understand clearly that the piece now ends with an unrushed, natural fade-out.

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8. Ghosts = GHOSTS

Probably Albert Ayler’s best known and most-recorded tune, this performance is quite different from the one of similar length on the Slugs’ album (“Ghosts” (sic), 16.06 22.03). The differences in part reflect the fact that the Slugs’ version was one element in a long medley of tunes while this version stands alone (it follows the medley of Tunes Z & Y, but only after an interval of some applause). Of greater interest, I suspect, are the novelties that probably arose from the addition to the group of violinist Michel Samson.

Although Samson is central to the peculiarities of this version, it is Albert who sets the ball rolling, at around 0.08, leaving the melody to improvise a parallel line. Samson responds with a broad, rising figure (0.17) and perseveres with it, even after the return of the familiar melody at around 0.32. When the improvisation tentatively emerges after the long coda to the melody (around 1.24), it is Samson’s counterpoint figure that the band coalesce around, only gradually increasing the intensity; and they return for more of the same after a premature climax at around 2.08.

There is nothing false about the climax reached at around 3.04, from which point Samson plays alone until (at 3.58) he is rejoined by the rest of the band and the intensity is gradually whipped back up to the point (4.56) where the melody is re-introduced, first in half-time and then in double-time, bringing the performance to a close.

To a considerable extent, this version exemplifies the familiar pattern of theme-solos-theme: while its counterpart on the Slugs’ album - seguing from and to other tunes - has a theme-solos-theme-solos format. Each of the ‘solo’ sections at Slugs’ is launched with a fast and furious rhythm: the second one broadly maintains that intensity for its entire two minutes; the first, however, reaches a climax after about a minute, ceding the stage to Samson with a similar sudden dead-stop to the one heard at 3.04 on the La Cave performance.

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First set, Sunday April 17, 1966

9. Spirits Rejoice (sic) = INFINITE SPIRIT

This performance is very similar to the first of the previous day (HG 3/2). It is extended by a final repetition of the first theme at 4.32 and, subsequently, by an improvisation around the closing riff.

00.00 1st theme
00.57 2nd theme
01.40 3rd theme
02.21 4th theme / Albert’s ‘sermon’
03.10 3rd theme again, but leading back to
03.42 1st theme
04.32 1st theme once more
05.04 Closing ‘tag’ riff (cf. HG 3/2, 4.11 – 4.30). However, an improvisation breaks out (Albert, briefly, then Michel), extending the piece.
06.00 Closing ‘tag’ riff (Albert rejoins Michel), which this time brings the piece to a close (at 6.18).

My wife observes that Ayler may have borrowed for his first theme from the verse of The Lord of The Dance, the melody for which comes from Simple Gifts, by Joseph Brackett. Looking at Brackett’s melody, I believe that she is on to something (that its relationship to the first theme of Infinite Spirit is comparable to the relationship between La Marseillaise and the second theme): I understand Lord of the Dance dates from 1963, which offers a plausible time- scale (although Albert might have known the melody from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring (1944)).

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10. Medley: Prophet – Ghosts – Spiritual Bells (sic) = PROPHET / GHOSTS / BELLS

10a (0.00 – 6.11) PROPHET /

Prior to the shrieking three notes (at around 0.12) which repeat and trigger the fast and furious improvisation typically associated with this tune, there are two thoughtful lines of melody followed by two shorter lines, leading up to the shrieking triplet. Although they are naggingly familiar, they are not to be found on any other version of Prophet. Albert repeats these lines, exactly, at around 4.13 and again at around 5.17 (triggering two more short bursts of improvisation); on the face of it, then, this is a genuine theme, and not merely an inspired ad lib. Thus far, I cannot put another name to it.

10b (6.12 – 7.23) / GHOSTS /

A brief essay of (part of) the melody of Ghosts.

10c (7.23 – 14.33) / BELLS

This, too, should be familiar to anybody reading this. The first of Bells’ two themes appears at 7.23, the second at around 9.54. Dikko Faust notes that this is the earliest recording of Bells to feature the double-time first theme, as played on the European tour of 1966 and on the Love Cry album (Impulse!) but not on the May 1965 performance from the eponymous ESP album.

Albert plays a line at 11.51 (and again (briefly) at around 12.09) to which he returns (after Samson’s solo) at 13.22. It is similar to the mysterious non-Prophet melody with which this medley began; but only similar in a few notes of its opening phrase, I think. Dikko Faust refers to both of these melodies as ‘pop goes the weasel’: but I can hear no more than “half a pound of” of that, and no “tuppenny rice”.

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11. Our Prayer – Spirits Rejoice = OUR PRAYER / INFINITE SPIRIT [First theme only]

11a (0.00 – 8.32) OUR PRAYER (Donald Ayler) /

A version of Our Prayer which begins with a gentler, resigned, even laid-back sound, in comparison to the previous night’s explosive performance of the tune. A great deal of dynamics subsequently go into this reading of the tune; but, spoilt by HG 3/5 - and notwithstanding some entertaining drumming from Ronald Shannon Jackson, which hints at his Decoding Society music of the 1980s - I remain relatively unmoved by this performance until the two brothers lay out, when Samson and Shannon Jackson together fashion a beautiful impressionistic interlude (3.09 – 3.54). The horns return to render the theme once (or twice) more, with Albert launching at once into furious counterpoint; and this time, they say it just about right, I think.

At 4.36, a fast and furious improvisation commences, the two brothers playing simultaneously. Dikko Faust calls this a cavalry charge. At 6.26, the horns and rhythm lay out and Samson takes over, with good-natured assistance from Shannon Jackson. At 7.50, Albert rejoins them, blowing an intriguing sounding line. Subsequently, however, it begins to sound a little bit shambolic: what to do? – is it time for a break? Sensing this, perhaps, Albert blows out the first theme of Infinite Spirit at 8.32

11b (8.32 – 9.35) / INFINITE SPIRIT [First theme only - set closing theme]

The theme is played twice, speeding up the second time. The closing ‘tag’ phrase (cf. HG 3/2 and 3/9) can be heard at around 9.21. Although this is the earliest recording of Infinite Spirit (or one of its themes) being used as a set closing theme, we know that Ayler occasionally played the theme of Spirits to similar purpose, in 1964 (eg Cellar Café 14 June, HG 2/3; Montmartre, 3 September, The Copenhagen Tapes)

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Disc Four, Holy Ghost

17 April 1966, second set. Add Frank Wright (ts).
Wright’s individual (soloing) contributions are detailed in the box set’s book. Is this how the band would have sounded if Tyler hadn’t walked out?

1. Untitled – Truth Is Marching In = … UNTITLED [possibly Universal Indians] / TRUTH IS MARCHING IN

1a (0.00 – 6.26) … UNTITLED [possibly Universal Indians] /

The recording begins with the band in the energetic midst of a collective improvisation, from which a short trumpet solo emerges at 1.16. From 1.52 to 2.12, Samson plays a figure resembling the theme of Universal Indians, a figure that might be signalling the transition from Donald’s improvisations to Albert’s solo, which commences at 2.06. (Compare this with what Samson plays at 4.58 – 5.20.)

1b (6.26 – 15.31) / TRUTH IS MARCHING IN

Another earliest known recording, and another of the pieces – like Our Prayer – indelibly associated with the Ayler- Samson-Ayler line-up, Truth Is Marching In has two themes: a slower stately one (6.26 – 9.52), and a lively second theme (from 9.52 to around 10.30). In fact, the first theme isn’t that slow or stately in this version; nor is the second theme in the driving uptempo it subsequently tended to be. Samson carries the second theme over into a short improvisation, with the first theme returning at 11.42. Frank Wright takes over at 12.36 and the performance finishes with a reflective passage from Albert leading to a final rendition of the first theme at 14.33

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2. Spirits = SPIRITS

After a short pause and some applause, Albert leads the band into Spirits, one of the most enduring and most recorded of the tunes from his 1964 repertoire. The melody is played first in a loose, rubato time feel; and then, a condensed version of the same line is played at tempo. (Although most of the versions recorded in 1964 began with the faster, shorter line, the arrangement used on this version had been featured on both the quartet version recorded for the Hilversum Session (Osmosis) and the first of the two versions found on Prophecy (ESP); that is, the only correctly named one.)

Frank Wright takes the first solo: initially, the theme plays on in counterpoint. It recurs throughout the piece at Albert’s instigation, signalling a change of soloists: first (2.48) Samson for Wright, then (4.09) the trumpeter for the violinist. When Albert reintroduces the theme at 5.55, the tempo soon dissolves to the free time with which the piece began. The theme is played at some length, establishing that the trumpeter knew the line well; and if it is arguable whether Albert solos at  all, he delicately fashions both an interlude (7.20 – 7.48) and a coda (8.25 – 8.59), which set a closing mood that’s in striking contrast to the one that dominates the body of this performance.

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3. Zion Hill = ZION HILL /

It appears that Zion Hill followed in performance, exploiting the reflective mood that Albert had created at the end of the preceding tune (the recording sounds continuous; although there is a pause of a few seconds after the applause ends, during which a trace of the other musics that had been recorded on this reel of tape can be heard).

Again, this is an earliest known recording, the more surprising since it is not known to have been performed at either Slugs’ Saloon a fortnight later or on the European tour later the same year. This performance makes those facts a little puzzling.

The restrained and reflective theme is superceded (at around 3.00) by high-octane solos from Ayler, Wright, both saxophonists together and, finally, Donald on trumpet. At around 8.40, the intensity is leavened by a long passage featuring the violinist, with beefy support from Mutawef Shaheed (Shy) and some choppy high-hat and cymbal work from Ronald Shannon Jackson. At 11.22 the bassist comes briefly to the fore, revealing the influence of Jimmy Garrison. The following track begins only when, after about four fascinating minutes of this trio music, Ayler returns to the theme of Spirits.

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4. Spirits (sic) = SPIRITS [Theme only] / TUNE Y /

4a (0.00 – 1.55) / SPIRITS [Theme only] /

This is unexpected, given that they had already performed a substantial version of this tune, not fifteen or twenty minutes earlier and that this is not a ‘set-closing’ theme, such as HG 3/11b, above. The arrangement of the theme is the same as the one they used earlier (HG 4/2): first the long, rubato melody, and then (at 1.04) the shorter, uptempo line. There is a brief improvised coda (from around 1.25) before the group segue into the next piece.

4b (1.55 – 7.03) / UNTITLED TUNE Y /

The trumpet introduces the ‘b’ line of the multi-melody of the Tune Y’s first theme at around 1.55. To recap: I analysed the first performance of Tune Y (HG 3/7b) as follows – introduction, first theme, bridge, second theme, solos, and a coda or ending section – and the first theme as comprising at least three short lines of melody which can be played simultaneously. This version omits the introductory section from the previous night’s version (HG 3/7, 7.40 – 8.23), but it does reprise the first theme, after the improvisation, suggesting that this may well have been a live option the night before (HG 3/7, at 13.46), as suggested by Samson’s playing.

01.55 First theme
           01.58 (10 note) Melody line ‘b’, now clearly prominent
           02.08 Albert plays melody line ‘c’ once only
           02.13 Albert plays melody line ‘a’
           02.19 Albert plays melody line ‘c’
03.04 Bridge
03.48 Second theme
04.06 Short collective improvisation
05.17 First theme again

A short, reflective solo passage from Albert commences at 6.08, with notable contributions from Mutawef Shaheed (Clyde Shy) on bass.

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5. Spiritual Bells (sic) = / SPIRITUAL BELLS … TUNE Y [Coda only]

5a (0.00 – 1.48) / SPIRITUAL BELLS …

This piece is heard at greater length on the Slugs’ Saloon album (“Ghosts” (sic) 3.48 – 8.49), its only other known recording. It is usually identified by the short melodic phrase it shares with the US national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner (they share the notes sung as ‘Oh say can you’). I have stuck with this title because no other piece of music has any claim on it and this seems to me preferable to assigning another alphabetical ‘untitled’ label, despite its misleading appearance in the name of the medley from the previous set (HG 3/10), in place of Bells.

Comparison with the version recorded at Slug’s Saloon suggests that this recording stops just before the group finished playing the final tag phrase of the composed theme; at Slugs’, the section that followed was dominated by Samson’s violin.

5b (1.51 – 3.55) … UNTITLED TUNE Y [Coda (staccato dance) only]

An unannounced break in the recording, which lasts a few seconds (on the CD) but at least a little longer on the occasion itself, and leaves us to speculate on both the further development of Spiritual Bells (indeed, whether there was any) and the transition to this jerky theme which could be heard, only the night before, bringing to a close Tune Y (or the medley of Tune Z and Tune Y). On the recording made at Slugs’ Saloon, Spiritual Bells is followed by parts of Tune Y, although those are parts – the bridge, the second theme – that the group have already played earlier in this performance (HG 4/4, 3.04 – 4.06).

This section ends in applause after the band bring the music to a halt. It sounds as though the recording was paused before the end of the applause, perhaps to conserve tape. The recording recommences before the following (and final) tune commences

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6. Untitled [F# Tune] = UNTITLED TUNE Z [F# Tune]

A stand-alone version of this composition that reiterates the question posed by the previous night’s performance: why is there no further evidence of this piece in the Ayler oeuvre (beyond the sixty four seconds of its theme recorded at    Slugs)? The passage beginning at 1.13, in which Albert solos in the upper register against Donald’s delivery of the theme, suggests that this tune was, like Our Prayer and Truth Is Marching In, capable of supporting performances of considerable intensity.

If the previous ten or so minutes of this disc (HG 4/4 and 4/5) are imbalanced by a disproportionate quantity of composed material and not enough improvisation, this piece goes a fair way to redressing that balance, with fiery saxophone from both Ayler and, at some length, Frank Wright. The first theme dominates until 2.45, when the second theme is introduced. There is some high energy collective soloing, followed by Donald on trumpet. The second theme returns (at 4.59 – 5.15), followed by a lengthy solo from Frank Wright. Albert initiates a ferocious group free-for-all at around 7.10, with one of the saxophonists blowing a hair-raising “this lorry is reversing” riff (7.40 – 8.02), before the first theme is reprised at 8.08, ending succinctly but without rush at 9.03.

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Sean Wilkie,
November 2009.

(Once again, I’d like to thank Mike Marinetto for first lending me these recordings and Karen for letting me listen to them quite so much.
                                                                                                                                                                                           - S. W.)

 

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