Albert Ayler: Four




Cecil Taylor Quartet w / Albert Ayler


Holy Ghost (Revenant 213)

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Albert Ayler (tenor sax), Cecil Taylor (piano), Jimmy Lyons (alto sax), Sunny Murray (drums, percussion).

Composed by Cecil Taylor


Recorded: Copenhagen, November 16, 1962


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

"Four" isn't the Miles Davis tune, but a 20-minute-long collective improvisation by pianist Cecil Taylor's trio with alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons and drummer Sunny Murray, augmented by the tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler. A week after this performance, this same Taylor group (minus Ayler) would record the influential Café Montmartre sides that have been released in many guises over the years, perhaps the most well-known being the 1976 Arista Freedom issue, Nefertiti, The Beautiful One has Come. As far as this writer knows, this track had it's first legitimate release as part of the 2004 Revenant boxed set, Holy Ghost, a massive undertaking that notably documents some of the more obscure aspects of Ayler's career.

Ayler's presence on "Four" adds a rough, primal edge to Taylor's music. Ayler's country blues- and gospel-tinged manner highlights the essential elegance of Taylor's bop- and classical-influenced style. It's a fascinating and largely successful admixture, though one finds it hard to imagine the two men sustaining a partnership for long. Alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyon's serpentine, Stitt-Meets-Ornette style is a much better match for the pianist. As for Ayler, he was the most un-tempered of jazz musicians; he sounded better when playing with musicians who could better accommodate his playing-between-the-cracks approach. Still, this a remarkable document—bracing, if curious in what it reveals about the differences between two of the great free jazz musicians of that or any other time.

Reviewer: Chris Kelsey

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