Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Love Cry

Back in 2004, I really discovered jazz. Sure, I'd owned "Kind of Blue" and "Giant Steps" for some time and found them to be generally enjoyable. But I wasn't yet moved to seek this sort of music out, still finding more inspiration in other forms. Living in Madison, Wisconsin at the time my girlfriend (now my wife) clued me in to the beauty of the public library and the immense collection of music that they loaned out. I was blown away by the collection of music in the Madison system and used it as an opportunity to explore a range of music that I would not have heard otherwise. My girlfriend also gave me a book at about this time, called  "100 jazz musicians" or something like that. Jazz musicians were listed in alphabetical order, and each was given a one or two page spread. As luck would have it, Albert Ayler was included in the book and was on one of the first few pages that I opened to. I read his bio, was intrigued by his tragic story, and made a mental note to see what the library had of his.

The library only had one Ayler album, and it was "Live in Greenwich Village." I checked it out. What came out of the speakers later that night was like nothing I had ever heard. However, the discs were badly beaten up (the problem with the public library) and the first disc skipped frequently and stopped playing about half way through. The second disc was unplayable.

Albert Ayler, Love Cry
1968, Impulse Records (CD 1991)
Albert Ayler: alto, tenor, vocals
Don Ayler: trumpet
Call Cobbs: harpsichord
Alan Silva: bass
Milford Graves: drums

The next day I went to the CD store to see if they had the album. They didn't. However, they did have one Ayler album - "Love Cry" for $9.99. The album is melodic, rhythmic, chaotic, loose, shocking, emotional, and inspiring. The sound is strange, particularly the tracks where Cal Cobbs plays harpsicord. The harpsichord lends an antique and disjointed sort of feel, like the music is somehow dated and old, yet everything else, particularly Albert's sax and his brother Don's trumpet, screams that this is something new - especially during the second half of the album. The album begins with the title track, which harkens to reveille, and it is followed by a series of loose marchs that speed up and slow down at whim, and provide a springboard for very short improvisations. The first six tracks were all recorded at a session in August of 1967, and they all have a very similar feel. I find myself joyfully humming along during the these tracks.

However, the second half of the album is where the real magic happens. These tracks (which include several alternate takes not on the original LP) were all recorded in February of 1968, and feature more extended improvisation and emotion, and Albert's sax is his ragged best - screaming, crying, and and splashing sounds like paint on a canvas. Donald's trumpet is repetitive and hypnotic.

Alan Silva on bass and Milford Graves on drums propel these schizophrenic and swirling marches along, and during the second half of the album provide the Ayler brothers with a template for unbridled improvisation. This is a unique and beautiful album, under-appreciated by many, including some Ayler fans. However, I find it impossible not to get swept up in these marching medleys and melodies - grinning, screaming and crying all the way.


  1. I will admit, Jazz is not my most favorite music, but your play of words just fascinated me. Your sense of enjoyment was in every sentance. I will look that album up just because of this blog.

    A little irony, my daughters name is Jazzy.

  2. Thanks Eugenia! I'm glad you enjoyed the review and hope that you do look up the album.