Recently, I saw a review of what appears to be an exciting new jazz film, called My Name is Albert Ayler , a documentary portrait by Swedish director, Kaspar Collin, shedding new light on the controversial, avant-garde saxophonist. Screenings appear to be limited, but I’ve heard that it will be out on DVD soon. (for more info, go to: http://www.mynameisalbertayler.com). I can’t wait to see the film, myself, but meanwhile I’ll have to be satisfied with my own fond memories of the man.
One memory involved an encounter with Elvin Jones at Slug’s Saloon, a jazz club in downtown Manhattan: I was lucky enough to get a front row table to hear Elvin’s group that night, but at the end of the set, as the players were walking off the stand, Albert Ayler popped up out of nowhere and asked if he could play a piece, solely as a duo with Elvin Jones. So Elvin, being keenly aware of Albert Ayler’s reputation as a brash egomaniac, made the somewhat defensive and sarcastic remark, “OK, Albert, just come on up here and play all night.”
The music which then ensued was some of the most inspiring that I’ve ever heard. You would almost have to classify it as a kind of internal Third Stream music, within the jazz avant-garde idiom. Albert counted off a medium-up tempo and both of them started swinging furiously with Albert playing basically in his style of tonal wailing and harmonic abandon while Elvin built up waves of driving rhythm behind him.
Well, the piece didn’t last all night. In fact it was rather well contained, and when it wound down with just one, final cymbal crash, Elvin looked up at Albert with a big smile and said,
“Hey, Albert, that was really good!”
Moral of story: Never be afraid to experiment with a new idea, especially in the unpredictable field of music, you never know when grace will happen, and………be sure to see the new documentary film about alto saxophonist, Albert Ayler.