Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sheer Madness

Music is the Healing Force of the Universe
impulse! AS-9191

Recorded 1969

1. Music is the Healing Force of the Universe
2. Masonic Inborn, part 1
3. A Man is Like a Tree
4. Oh! The Love of Life
5. Island Harvest
6. Drudgery


Albert Ayler Tenor Saxophone, bagpipes, Vocal
Bobby Few Piano
Henry Vestine Guitar
Bill Folwell Bass
Stafford James Bass
Muhammad Ali Drums
Mary Maria Vocal

OK, so there is some pretty crazy music out there, but this must take some sort of prize for being as mad as they come. From one of Ayler's final sessions before his untimely death in 1970, this is apparently a move from Free Jazz into something inflenced by R&B (according to the sleevenote). On what planet, exactly, are the bagpipes considered central to R&B? When did you last hear an R&B record with no discernible rhythm or melody? With a mad woman spouting mystical poetry over the top of it all? To be fair, the final track, 'Drudgery' actually does pay a passing resemblance to an R&B 45, but it's only passing.

This record is, though, rather more than the sum of it's parts. Ayler's playing is fascinating throughout, especially so on 'Masonic Inborn part 1', the track featuring the bagpipes playing a circular 'theme' - well, going through similar intervals in a similar way, at least. The drumming is also worth a mention - basically each track is treated by the drummer as an ectended solo spot, but it still all fits in and works with the other players. I am continually overawed by how these guys do it. And then, just when you think it couldn't get any odder, 'Island Harvest' kicks in with it's infectious (infectious - not a word normally associated with free jazz) calypso groove.

There are few words to describe a record as strange, as alien as this. So i won't attempt to find any. Just listen to it. The official impulse! site has a few sound clips which are reccomended listening for all of you with open ears.

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