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Albert Ayler: The Hilversum Session

Bernard Stollman founded the ESP-Disk label in 1964 and put out 45 albums, mostly of improvised free-jazz, before things slowed down in 1974. The music has resurfaced several times since then and, in recent times, Stollman has been accelerating the number of releases, mostly reissues but sometimes with additional material. Albert Ayler was Stollman’s most renowned artist, an innovative tenor saxophonist whose mixture of folkish melodies and intense sound-breaking solos became quite influential. The Hilversum Session from 1964 has Ayler performing six unique anthems with trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray including an early version of “Ghosts,” “Spirits” and “Angels.” [Ed. note: For a more in-depth take on the Ayler reissue, see Chris Kelsey’s review on page 60.] Sunny Murray, who is considered the first drummer to play completely free, is in the spotlight on much on a self-titled CD. Not only is Murray featured in a passionate 1966 set with a quintet that includes altoist Byard Lancaster and bassist Alan Silva, but he is heard in a lengthy and fascinating interview discussing the first half of his career as he evolved from a straight-ahead to a free drummer. Also from ESP are some broadcast performances of the innovative bop pianist Bud Powell, Live at the Blue Note Café, Paris, 1961. In addition to some superior playing by Powell (on a very good day) with bassist Pierre Michelot and drummer Kenny Clarke, three extended numbers feature Zoot Sims sitting in with the trio.

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