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Sprawling Ayler Set Due in Oct.

The record industry and its customers are fortunate to have labels like Revenant, the John Fahey-founded factory o’ fun that can turn a handful of discs of Albert Ayler’s spiritual saxophone bleating into something even the squarest of the squares will want. Not to dissuade anyone from Ayler’s music. It’s something to be loved. Most folks need to learn how to love free jazz, however. What better way to do that than to plunk down a pile of cash for the forthcoming Holy Ghost, Revenant’s oh-so-lovingly prepared collection of Ayler recordings, due October 5?

If you’re already an Albert Ayler fan, you’ll still find plenty to love in Holy Ghost, as all of its music is previously unreleased. (Please note: Much of this music has appeared on non-official, bootleg releases in the past. But, I must ask, have any of these bootlegs come with goodies like a pretty, pressed flower? ‘Cause this one does.) Other extras inside the set’s deluxe, molded plastic box include reproductions of ’60s free-jazz lit by poet Paul Haines and others, a reproduction concert flyer from NYC’s Slugs, and a reproduced note from Ayler to Haines written on stationary from Copenhagen’s Hotel Esplanaden-“Love from the free jazz quartet,” Ayler writes).

All that booty is additional to the real meat: Seven CDs of recordings that include Ayler’s work with the Herbert Katz Quintet and the Cecil Taylor Quartet in ’62, various live dates with his own trio, quartet and quintet, and late ’60s dates with the Pharoah Sanders Ensemble and brother Don Ayler’s Sextet-plus two discs of interviews from various points in his career. No box set is complete without copious notes on the music written by folks in the know. Holy Ghost comes with a hardback, cloth-bound book filled with essays by those folks: Amiri Baraka, Val Wilmer, Daniel Caux, Ben Young and Marc Chaloin. The book is also padded out with a number of previously unpublished photographs by Raymond Ross, Wilmer and others.

And then there’s the secret CD, the one they don’t even mention in the press materials. It comes in a slip case made to look like an old reel-to-reel tape box and contains two tracks, “Tenderly” and “Leap Frog,” that come from a recorded rehearsal of the U.S. Army 76th AG Band on Sept. 14, 1960, when Ayler was a member and featured soloist in the group.

Holy Ghost track list:


Herbert Katz Quintet w/Albert Ayler

June 19, 1962 in Helsinki, Finland

1. Sonnymoon for Two (8:35)

2. Summertime (6:55)

3. On Green Dolphin Street (3:30)

Cecil Taylor Quartet w/Albert Ayler

November 16, 1962 in Copenhagen, Denmark

1. spoken intro (4:33)

2. Four (21:44)

Albert Ayler Trio

June 14, 1964 in New York City

6. untitled, ends with “Spirits” (6:39)

7. Saints (10:20)

8. Ghosts (10:50)


Albert Ayler Trio

June 14, 1964 in New York City

1. The Wizard (6:39)

2. Children (9:17)

3. Spirits (0:58)

Albert Ayler Quartet

September 3, 1964 in Copenhagen, Denmark

4. Spirits (9:40)

5. Vibrations (8:14)

6. untitled (9:09)

7. Mothers (7:53)

8. Children (8:30)

9. Spirits (1:24)

Burton Greene Ensemble w/Albert Ayler

Jan/Feb 1966 in New York City

10. untitled (9:08)

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