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Joe McPhee/Roy Campbell/William Parker/Warren Smith: Tribute to Albert Ayler: Live at the Dynamo

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On a three-week European tour in the fall of 2008, tenor sax-man Joe McPhee, drummer Warren Smith, bassist William Parker and trumpeter Roy Campbell traveled on the wings of Albert Ayler. Had it not been for producer Gérard Terronès’ persuasion, Tribute to Albert Ayler: Live at the Dynamo might have not been recorded. Clearly explained in the liner by each musician, this tour was built on the spirit, the dream and the magic of Ayler’s music, rather than its emulation. The inspiration of Ayler’s music alone became the glue that allowed the four band members, who had never worked together before, integrate their individual improvisatory languages into a sound that was meant to be.

The voice of Warren Smith starts the record speaking Aylerian poetry, whose basis is the all-encompassing theme that music is the healing force of the universe. The tenor whispers up through the words, and, successively, the chimes and tom are tapped lightly, the trumpet begins a poignant song and the bass weaves itself in, with slow pizzicato. Soon, the instruments are unified preachers of Ayler’s message.

The tenor and trumpet synchronize in an Aylerian chorus to open the double dedication to Cherry and Ayler and the closing “Universal Indians.” The quartet merges in a surge of trumpet and tenor runs yielding to brilliant stick work on the drums and percussion and relentless arco bowing in trumpeter Donald Ayler’s “Prophet John.” The tenor’s melodious lead in Miriam Makeba’s “Muntu” is altogether mournful, assiduously strident and replete with split tones; the trumpet inherits the tenor’s line, speaking in flurries and voice-like expressive phrases. Each of the musicians is so well-versed in listening to one another that it was not difficult for them to produce music that has true substance, to address, as well, the healing of racial divides.

Originally Published