Listening Booth: First in a series.
I recently was gifted the massive Albert Ayler Holy Ghost box set. The set is comprised of nine CDs of rare and unreleased jams dating from his military band times to his spiritual-free-jazz heyday. It is dense and intense: the Ulysses of box sets: musical beauty tangling with serious ruffness, head-nodding charms with crazy-ass migraine inducing shit. The man himself you can read about here.
Holy Ghost came out several years ago. We got a copy of it in the office, complete with black plastic hard case, booklets, pictures, dried flower. I decided I had to record it on tape—for my car [back then I only had a tape deck]. I tried blasting it as I drove around town. At the time, after a few road tests with my tapes, I felt this was a very bad idea.
I put the tapes away and forgot about Albert Ayler for a while. My last experience with the set came from another road trip. This time, I had the pleasure of sitting in the backseat of a friend’s car as he cranked the set from his iPOD. Nothing like sitting in New York Avenue traffic with Ayler jamming deep and spiritual into your eardrums.
You can listen to Ayler here and you might get what I’m talking about.
Anyway, now that I have the box set, I decided to finally breakdown and take on the Ayler challenge. I caught up with WPFW Program Director Bobby Hill. He recommended I should just jump to Disc 6, Track 8—”Thank God For Women.” He suggested I pop that jam in my car and blast it. He says he’s blasted Ayler in his car many times.
Hill is a cool dude with a deep jazz knowledge. So on a recent night, I decided to give it a try. Ayler’s proto-Funkadelic bop filled my car. I rolled down the windows. And then pumped the song even louder.
I wanted people to hear Ayler. I counted only two weird looks from other drivers. A real victory for free jazz.
The song itself floored me. After five or six blocks, I had goose bumps. I’m now hooked. I only have 9 discs and hours of freak-out jazz to go.