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Witches And Devils

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01
Witches & Devils
12:06  
02
Spirits
6:36
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03
Holy, Holy
11:10  
04
Saints
6:09
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Album Information

Total Tracks: 4   Total Length: 36:01

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They Say All Music Guide

This Arista Freedom release is actually a reissue of two sessions from 1964. Witches & Devils is a compelling listen because of its situational framework rather than its artistic achievement. Ayler had already had the experience of playing with Cecil Taylor in Europe two years before this. The rhythm section there, Sunny Murray and Henry Grimes, also appear here. Though Grimes plays on only one of the two sessions — the other bassist was Earle Henderson — Murray is present throughout, and what a difference it makes in the sound of Ayler’s confidence, tone, and overall musical presentation. Previous outings featured Ayler with well-meaning but incapable European musicians trying to play his music. Here, though the trumpet chair — Norman Howard, a friend from Ayler’s hometown of Cleveland — is a weak link in the chain, this situation allows Ayler’s music to shine through, more or less. Needless to say, the quartet with Grimes and Murray, which yields two tunes here — the title track, which also features Henderson, and “Holy, Holy” — offers the first real glimpse of Ayler in command. His statuesque take on the tonal and timbral fronts comes from both Ornette Coleman and the honking R&B bar-walkers. And in looking inside the various registers on the title cut, he explores the emotions inherent in timbral modulation without refracting the notes themselves too much. He moves from a whisper of great tenderness to a bloodcurdling scream, and it all sounds natural. On “Holy, Holy,” the arco bass work by Grimes complements the intensity with which Ayler is playing. He goes for the upper register buoyed up by Murray’s triple time, timberline beats and cross-handed polyrhythms, screeching to the point of sounding like a crying child, quoting hymns and blues tunes throughout. Howard’s trumpet playing is no great shakes, but he moves through note displacement very well, opening up the harmonic registers for Ayler and Grimes to break through unencumbered. This is a revealing if not completely satisfying recording. – Thom Jurek

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