Albert Ayler: The Wizard
Albert Ayler (tenor sax)
Spiritual Unity (ESP 1002)
Composed by Albert Ayler.
Recorded: New York, July 10, 1964
Rating: 91/100 (learn more)
If ever, oh ever, a Wiz there was, The Wizard of Oz is one because . . .
Oh, sorry, wrong song! It's not that wizard on Albert Ayler's track "The Wizard." Can't look for jaunty Harold Arlen melodies on this one, folks. This is a darker wizard, more like Voldemort than Dumbledore, and one that has lots of weapons and spells at his disposal. Here are some of them: spell to make a saxophone sound like a dental drill (2:06 minutes into the track); spell to make a sax take on the sonic properties of a flame-thrower (3:58 into the track); spell to force a saxophone reed to create vibrations hitherto unknown on the planet Mungo (at the 4:43 mark), etc.
Not even Trane or Dolphy or Ornette went this far out. The raw power of this track is almost frightening in its intensity. If pushing the envelope was the essence of Free Jazz, Ayler earned his place in jazz history by pushing farther than anybody. Tain't no envelope left, my friends. To a certain extent, we have lived in a "post-Ayler" age ever since.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia