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Albert Ayler - The Copenhagen Tapes

Albert Flair, Sunday Herald

It's been a great year for fans of the late saxophonist Albert Ayler. Both the live 1966 set, Lörrach/Paris and his last ever show, Nuits De La Fondation Maeght were reissued on CD. And now two previously unreleased sessions recorded by the quartet of Ayler, Don Cherry, Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray in Denmark in 1964 have been released.

Scandinavia was an imp-ortant stopover for Ayler. He first exploded onto the map, sitting in with pianist Cecil Taylor's trio and recording a pair of albums with local musicians in 1962.
As Ayler states in an interview on The Copenhagen Tapes: 'When I come over here I feel quite free, really free.'

The performances here are proof of that, with the quartet blasting off via wheezy, strangulated takes on melodies drawn from Ayler's pool of knowledge, before abandoning any sense of tonal fidelity in a series of gulping, rough-throated improvisations all made explicable via the saxophonist's desire to ring emotional nuance from every note.

Cherry is on quicksilver form, summoning globular shapes as he chases the arc of Ayler's lines with his trumpet. There's much morphing as Cherry adopts Ayler's raucous voice while Ayler plays close to Cherry, parallelling his phrases . Both bassist Peacock and drummer Murray are superb, an advanced rhythm section that dissolves feeble conceits like 'keeping time'.

It's an unexpected blast, a shot of just how emotionally engaging and articulate free jazz can be and further proof of Ayler's titanic standing.