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Albert Ayler - The Copenhagen Tapes

Magnus Säll, Dagens Nyheter

He is like a horse that has kicked and pawed in the box for years in order to be free. And when he eventually does, the feeling of freedom is so strong that he almost pasts out.

Albert Ayler stands on the stage at Montmartre in Copenhagen in September 1964 and moves to the basic, all dead points be deleted. Action playing which demands: everything at once!

The American poet Ted Joans saw Albert Ayler’s group arrive in Denmark: “Their sound was so different, so unique and raw, like to scream ‘FUCK’ in Sant Patric’s Cathedral during a sold out Easter service. ( … ) Some Danish answered with bad whistling, others screamed to the musicians to shut up. I sat chocked, intoxicated and surprised to what I experienced. Their music didn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before”.

He was not the only one who was hit. John Coltrane had heard Ayler earlier and tried to sound like him for many weeks, but he had to give up. John Coltrane’s last whish was that Ayler, together with Ornette Coleman, should play at his funeral.

This visit in Copenhagen was not Ayler’s first in Scandinavia. He came to Sweden in the beginning of the 60’s and about a year later he made his first recording thanks to Bengt “Frippe” Nordström. He played in Copenhagen together with the piano player Cecil Taylor. At that time he was unknown, a very margin person for most people.
When he returned in 1964 he was still controversial but, still, a musician with his own name and with a band of his own. The bop and the post-bop was side stepped and had to give up for the pain of the trough. New aesthetic for a new time.

But one was easily fouled: the music, which sounded revolutionary, had in reality deep roots.
Many of the most important names of the radical jazz had started in the New Orleans jazz or some other kind of black music.
Albert ayler for instance played with the blues player Little Walters’ tour band. He sad that “all music should have the roots at Louis Armstrong”.

In Ayler’s music one can hear the group improvisation from the New Orleans music, the ecstasy from the gospel music in the churches, the earthy of the blues.
And Swedish folk songs: in the sleeve notes to this CD it is claimed that Ayler’s “Ghost” is built on Gunde Johansson’s “Torparevisan”.

Beautiful “The Copenhagen Tapes” - released by the small, suitably named Ayler Records in Gusum - contains of formerly unreleased recordings from Ayler’s Copenhagen visit in September 1964: from one of the Montmarte concerts and from a radio recording the same week. There can also an interview by Ayler be heard (the voice is surprisingly soft and mild).

Action of culture is felt as an understatement in this case. The musicians are childish happy to be able to say their message. Listen to the poetry of Gary Peacocks bas, the inner rhythm in Sunny Murray’s at first glance broken-in-pieces drumming, the trembling butterfly tone form the trumpet player Don Cherry. And so Ayler: wide, untidy, snorting tenor saxophone directed direct to the sun. What naivety!

The resistance starts here. Place George Bush to a forced listening to “Vibrations” or “Mothers”, not even he could miss the message of love.