(Cuneiform)

One day Henry Kaiser, a man with very open ears and extremely nimble fingers, decided that the critically destroyed late recordings released by Albert Ayler before dying – “Love Cry”, “New Grass” and “Music is the Healing Force of the Universe” – were due an attentive revision, to enhance what the press release calls “ideas that were not fully realized at the time, nor appreciated up to the present”. By reading the names of the participants, we realize that: A) Kaiser has a lot of extraordinary musicians as friends, and B) there is no limitation of fantasy in approaching the artistry of a musician that literally epitomizes free-jazz. Still, linking jazz stalwarts such as Vinny Golia and Joe Morris with Zappa alumnus Keneally and a pair of rather uncontrollable improvisers (Smith and Walter), the whole complemented by the suave-voiced Josephson, who’s adept in both academics and improvisation, means that troubles might surface. There are some indeed. Not in the correct functioning of the interplay, which is fabulous everywhere – the long “Music is the Healing Force of the Universe” and “Japan / Universal Indians” are alone worth of owning the CD. What leaves a tad perplexed is the multi-genre procedure for the rendition of Ayler’s music, which probably would benefit from a measure of channelling in this circumstance. As good as they sound, sometimes the tracks appear a little light for their original goal (“Oh! Love of Life” and parts of “New Generation” being the perfect example in that sense) and in a couple of instances the intensely refined sax of Golia, who does a great job throughout, is just displaced amidst rock-ish energy, hyper-processed overdriven guitars and crashing drums. Josephson herself sounds too educated to these ears, her technical posture noticeable even in the potentially most liberated segments. On the other hand, we have to appreciate the seriousness of the artistic commitment, undeniable from the very start. Part of the problem is mine: I’m not a lover of tribute albums anyway, yet listeners can rest assured that at Cuneiform only instrumentalists whose prowess is all but ascertained are featured. The fact is that, as earnestly as this material was interpreted, it’s neither achingly deep nor usable for social purposes, if you get my point. A modicum of scissoring would have certainly helped.

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