Friday, February 6, 2009

Slugs' Saloon

Most of my “deep” music listening occurs in the evening or during the few days a week that I work from home.  Although I often play music in my office at work, I am rarely brave enough to expose my colleagues to the energy-rich goodness of free jazz sensu Ayler.   Typically I don’t push things much past Eric Dolphy, mid-period Coltrane, early Cecil Taylor, etc.  For my more energy-intensive material I have a room in the finished basement of our very tiny house where these activities can take place.  However, given the thin walls and my wife’s sensitive ears, listening to any music loud is typically not good for overall family morale, so if I want to really listen to something at high volume I typically use headphones.  This next album benefits greatly from headphones, primarily because the sound quality is rather sub par, likely because it was essentially a bootleg recording.

I listened to “Slug’s Saloon” several times after I first downloaded it from emusic, but a couple weeks later I stumbled into a copy of Lörrach, Paris 1966, and it soon replaced this one in the player primarily because of the better sound quality.  So although this album has regularly rotated through my listening queue I honestly didn’t listen to it very deeply until this past week.  However, I have listened to this album at least a dozen times this week; in fact, it is essentially the only music I have listened to, except for a Pete Seeger album that my wife and 19 month old daughter have been playing upstairs.   I am traveling today, and the frantic preparation for this trip and lack of sleep during the past few nights have left me feeling rather exhausted and a bit down.  I just listened to this album again on the airplane, and as I sit here awash with the lingering jubilance it has created, staring out on the awe-inspiring mountains of Colorado, I am feeling incredibly uplifted.  

Albert Ayler, Slugs' Saloon
1966, ESP
Albert Ayler:  tenor saxophone
Don Ayler:  trumpet
Michel Sampson:  violin
Lewis Worrell: bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums

Recorded live at Slugs' Saloon on May 1st, 1966 the album is similar in feel and delivery to "Greenwich Village" as well as "Lörrach" which I will discuss more in my next entry.  In my opinion, it is a little more frenetic in feel than these other two releases, and the most striking difference is that imparted by Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums.  Stylistically his drumming is quite a contrast to Sunny Murray’s and somewhat different from Beaver Harris’s as well.  Often Jackson seems to drum “with” the melody, and his drumming is in some ways more “march-like” which obviously suits these pieces well.  He doesn’t really keep a strong beat per se but the drums are certainly more aggressive.  I think I prefer the sorts of things that Sunny Murray brought to the mix, as well as the template that Beaver Harris would provide later in 1966, but this is still a very enjoyable album.  Albert and company were really at the height of their powers during this time period.  If you can get past the sound quality, which really isn't hard, this is wonderful stuff.   

Below is a relevant audio clip, again taken from the radio show that ESP put together.  Bernard Stollman talks about the album and how he acquired the tape of the show.

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