09 Mar An important jazz event: ALBERT AYLER “Revelations : The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings” for RSD 2022 + Pre-order CD on Bandcamp
Elemental Music, the transatlantic record label dedicated to newly discovered archival jazz releases, is proud to announce the release of Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings, the first comprehensive issue of free jazz saxophone icon Albert Ayler’s last great concert appearance. This official release presented as a deluxe limited-edition of 180g hand-numbered 5 LP-set mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio, directly from the original ORTF (Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française) stereo tape reels, including over 2 hours of previously unreleased music.
There will be a 4-CD set deluxe package and digital download available for pre-order on Bandcamp that will be available on April 30th.
ALBERT AYLER – REVELATIONS – The complete ORTF recordings (Limited 5LP Box-Set & 4CD Digipack Edition)
Both sets will feature elaborate 100-page CD and 16-page LP booklets with essays by Ayler authority Ben Young, saxophonist Jeff Lederer, and Pascal Rozat of INA France; new interviews with bassist Steve Tintweiss and drummer Allen Blairman, who accompanied Ayler at the Fondation Maeght concerts in Saint-Paul de Vence, France; new statements and interviews by musicians Sonny Rollins, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Joe Lovano, Carla Bley, John Zorn, Reggie Workman, Bill Laswell, Patty Waters, and James Brandon Lewis, and the Albert Ayler Estate’s Desiree Ayler-Fellows; and rare photos from the concerts by Jean-Pierre Leloir, Philippe Gras, Jacques Robert and Oliver Nouel.
The release is an important jazz event: While Ayler’s freewheeling performances at the Fondation Maeght on July 25 and 27, 1970, were excerpted on the albums Nuits de la Fondation Maght (Shandar Records) and Live on the Riviera (ESP-Disc), presented in inferior sound, they have never been released in their entirety until now.
The set’s producer Zev Feldman – the noted “Jazz Detective” partnered in Elemental Music with Jordi Soley and Carlos Agustín – says, “I first discovered these tapes in 2015 when I was searching through the French Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA) archives. It was truly revelatory when I saw that there was two hours of previously unissued material that were stereo mixes. Now for the first time we could present these historic concerts in the way they happened, from start to finish. I liken it to the experience of finding a lost masterpiece.”
In his essay, saxophonist and Revelations co-producer Lederer writes, “These recordings were certainly already exceptional from a number of perspectives: They represented the penultimate concert performances of Albert Ayler and his group (there was one more concert appearance in Springfield, Massachusetts, prior to Ayler’s untimely death in November of that year, with a group that included violinist Leroy Jenkins); they represent Ayler expanding upon the songs that he co-created with his creative and life partner Mary Maria Parks for his final Impulse! recordings, but expanding upon them with the long-form improvisational vision of his earlier ESP recordings; and they represent the final substantial recordings of a musical giant, just three months before a tragic ending to his life.
“But,” Lederer adds, “as I listened to these newly shared complete concert recordings I realized that there was much, much more to discover here – in fact what we had heard from these performances in the issued editions was only about half of the music performed on those nights.”
By the time Ayler appeared at the museum and performance space the Fondation Maeght — at the invitation of writer-artist Daniel Caux, who was curating an exhibition and a complementary concert series at the facility —his music had undergone dramatic changes from the free jazz heard on his early releases for Debut and ESP-Disc. While still profoundly exploratory, his later albums like New Grass and Music is the Healing Force of the Universe for Impulse! reached back to the blues and R&B styles he worked in as a member of Little Walter’s and Lloyd Price’s bands at the beginning of his professional career. This controversial new direction, which was encouraged by the label, no doubt came about through the influence of his personal and professional relationship with Mary Maria Parks.
Ben Young writes, “Mary Maria, as she was professionally known, was Ayler’s confidant and collaborator of record as he spun into a new territory. Whether the Dido-, Medea-, or (for contemporary analysts) Yoko Ono-figure, she was the pivotal presence in the last three years of Albert’s life. She was his companion in and out of music, sometime concert producer, his managing agent, and eventually co-star. They were married in 1969.”
Owing to the customs-delayed arrival of pianist Call Cobbs, Ayler’s longtime sideman, for the July 27 show, Ayler (tenor and soprano saxophone, musette, and vocals), Mary Maria (soprano saxophone and vocals), Tintweiss, and Blairman performed the opening July 25 show as a quartet. Taken as a whole, the Fondation Maeght dates serve as a full-blown Ayler career retrospective, as they essay early-career opuses like “Spirits” and “Truth is Marching In,” the funk of the Impulse!-era compositions, and spirited unrehearsed free blowing (heard to great advantage on the tracks dubbed “Revelations:” here).
In his interview, Tintweiss recalls the completely free-form preparation for the first performance: “Albert called us over to [go] outside to have a little quick meeting before we started….There was no sheet music. I had no rehearsals. He just said to me, ‘You start off with the bass and I’ll come in, and we’ll take it from there. That was it.”
As one can hear on Revelations, both nights of music were greeted with rapturous responses from the audience. According to drummer Blairman, it left an indelible impression on the players as well: “He touched me spiritually, and you cannot put a word on that…It’s like Coltrane with Elvin. Yeah. If you asked Elvin about Coltrane, he said, ‘It’s like I was touched by an angel. It was like I was in the presence of an angel.’ And that’s what I felt with Albert, for what he was doing and what he opened my mind to.”
Both Ayler’s contemporaries and musicians whose work he influenced contribute remembrances and tributes to Revelations’ companion book. Among them:
• John Zorn: “The music included in this set, recorded live in France a few months before his tragic death, has long been my very favorite amongst all his recorded work. His live performances often approached the intensity of an exorcism or mystical ritual—and here his improvisations are astonishingly spontaneous and concise, achieving a magical unity of opposites with laser-like focus.”
• David Murray: “Leroy Jenkins told me, he knew him, he said, ‘Albert Ayler was a cat who was really before his time.’ He was the right man at that time to make that statement to the universe and to the people in jazz.”
• Carla Bley: “When I first heard Albert, I wanted to play like him. I said, ‘That’s the way I want to play!’ I told him that one day, and he seemed very pleased. He had an element of humor in his music that I didn’t hear in other players, and I value humor in all the arts.”
• Carlos Santana: “Albert Ayler, his tone, like Pharoah and Sun Ra, is like being inside a spaceship. It’s just like being inside a mothership. You just close your eyes, and that tone — it’s not even a saxophone anymore. It’s a mothership. That’s who he is.”
• Archie Shepp (on witnessing Ayler for the first time): “I was really shaken up by the performance, because it was so different from anything I had ever heard before. In fact that night I didn’t sleep too well, because he had rather upset my whole concept of the saxophone and how it should be played. I was profoundly influenced by what he had done, and so it freed me up in later years, so that my performance style changed as well. That was my meeting with Albert Ayler.”
• Sonny Rollins: “He was like a flash of lightning and then he was gone….I’m sure he had a great insight into moving the music along, and he had the energy and enlightenment about him that would make that possible.”
In its thrilling totality, Revelations is a deep, definitive blast from the artist whom Amiri Baraka called “the dynamite sound of the time.”