Important Works By Albert Ayler And John Coltrane: 1965-67


Live In Greenwich Village: The Complete Impulse Recordings


March 28, 1967: Impulse IMPD-2-273 

This collection, previously released as several different albums, documents saxophonist Albert Ayler’s performances over a two-year long period at the Village Vanguard, the Village Gate, and the Village Theater in New York’s Greenwich Village between March 28, 1965 and February 26, 1967. It is interesting to note that while other artists explored Eastern mysticism in various forms and manners, Ayler was very much of the Western/Judeo-Christian sanctified tradition, and the themes/titles of his songs revolved around expressions of ideas on angels, spiritual unity, New Jerusalem, revelation, and such. The music itself, especially in this collection can be easily said to have a certain rejoicing quality, which according to Nat Hentoff in the album’s liner notes, is possibly due to the simple tonic-dominant, hymn-like quality of the themes, and the so-called ‘speaking-in-tongues’ quality of Ayler improvisations; high ululations, rapid-fire glottal articulation, restricted pitch range, and fervent machine gun delivery.


The Major Works Of John Coltrane


June 28, Oct. 1, and Oct. 14, 1965, Impulse / GRD -2-113, 1992

This collection of several late Coltrane recordings contains both editions of the powerful composition Ascension, recorded by Coltrane in June 1965, a mere 6 months after the landmark recording A Love Supreme. Though the song contains a similarly reflective 4 note theme, its overall sound and feel are exponentially amplified by the inclusion of 7 extra performers over and beyond the four member John Coltrane Quartet, including Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, and both Archie Shepp and Pharaoh Sanders on tenor saxophone, two emerging young players of the second wave of free jazz after Ornette Coleman, and Cecil Taylor. As previously discussed, this involvement in the free jazz movement by Coltrane tacitly championed and supported the second wave players, and gave critics, fans, and performers alike both for and against the “New Thing” further grist for their collective mills. Originally released on separate LPs, the songs included on this collection give the listener not only the added advantage of not having to buy each separate album, but also the chance to listen to each track in context of the other.

The piece “Ascension” itself is interesting in that one can hear the modal sounding playing of the original rhythm section interlaced with the chromatic/energy styling of the horns, beginning with a dominant style vamp for the first two minutes, moving the tonic two minutes later during the non-stop collective soloing. Whereas the “Love Supreme” motif began on the dominant and resolved on the tonic, the “Ascension” motif seems to remain unresolved as the bass holds the first note of the motif as a tonic, making the last note of the motif a sub-dominant note that never resolves, leaving the overall sound of what might be called the harmony of the piece sounding “incomplete”, possibly to raise the tension of the soloing that much further. Whether intended or not, this ‘unfinished’ modal effect is still musically engaging, and adds a further musical dimension to this already sophisticated piece of music. Ascension is a special album, and will remain special for eternity.


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