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Chapter 4: 1966-1967
On his return from Europe, Albert Ayler began recording for Impulse Records. After Albert had sent John Coltrane copies of Ghosts and Spiritual Unity, 'Trane had lobbied for a contract for Ayler. In late 1966, Albert and Don had expressed their unhappiness with the production values of the independent labels on which they had been recording.
Don Ayler: You can hear what we're talking about in the sound of the musicians we've worked with. It's a pure sound, like crystal. Albert Ayler: Like Gary Peacock. That is, if you can hear it on the kind of recordings we make. Except maybe for Ghosts, we have yet to be recorded right. So far, they've just run us into a studio and out again with never time to get a real balance. That's the worst way to exploit an artist. When I hear how well Coltrane is recorded on Impulse, I feel all the more keenly what is lost of us when we record.
Shortly after returning from Europe, the quintet, augmented by Call Cobbs, piano, and Henry Grimes, bass, played at the Village Vanguard, where they were recorded by Impulse. Performance December 18, 1966, The Village Vanguard, New York. Albert Ayler (tenor sax) Donald Ayler (trumpet) Michel Sampson (violin) William Folwell (bass) Henry Grimes (bass) Beaver Harris (drumset) Call Cobbs (piano) (5 only) 1.Truth is Marching In 2.Spirits Rejoice 3.Our Prayer 4.Divine Peacemaker
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5.Angels (actually "Prophecy")(tenor and piano duet) 1 and 3 released on Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village, Impulse A(S)9155, 2546352 (compact disc), (Italy) IMP431, (Japan) IMP88064, YP8548, Jasmine (UK) JASM70. 2, 4, and 5 released on The Village Concerts, Impulse IA9336/2, MCA2-4129. 3 also on La Saga Heroique d'Albert Ayler, Pathe (France) 2C.154-92336, Impulse AS-1024. Unissued titles from this show may also exist. John Coltrane was present at this show, observing the progress of the recording he had arranged. His compositional and instrumental style had progressively become more and more influenced by Ayler. This is perhaps most obvious on the track "The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," from the album Meditations. There is a deceptively simple theme followed by ecstatic soloing form Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders, who had become a regular member of the Coltrane group. Also, Rashied Ali, who worked occasionally with Albert, plays alongside Elvin Jones. Coltrane himself explained this song to Albert.
Albert Ayler: The father, son, and holy ghost. What Coltrane was talking about there, maybe it was a biblical term: he was the father, Pharaoh was the son, and I was the holy ghost. And only he could tell me things like that.
Early in 1967, Albert Ayler met another jazz legend.
Andrew Leachman: It was a Sunday night, it was my first visit to the [Village] Vanguard, I was checking out exactly where it was as I had heard about the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis big band. When I went to the club I was told Miles [Davis] was going to be playing, and sure enough, Miles appeared but not with George Coleman but with a new guy who I had never heard of, called Wayne Shorter!! (God, that's how long ago that was!) I was at a table on my own. I struck up a conversation with a woman on the next table who turned out to be the wife of Sam Jones, the bass player with Cannonball? No, I was informed Sam was now with Oscar Peterson, and he would be in later. Half way through the first set, a guy came to my table, he was carrying a record (Spirits Rejoice). At the break,this young man jumped up and entered into an animated discussion with Miles. He returned to the table very angry. I had difficulty understanding him for although I speak English, I could not grasp all his words. It transpired that he wanted to play his record in the break. Max [Gordon, the owner of the Vanguard] had told Albert to ask permission from Miles, which wasn't forthcoming. The result was an Angry Albert Ayler. We talked for a little while about music, but I had no idea who he was. I was intrigued with the white in his beard, for he had a very young face. He told me it just grew like that. I was mortified at his attitude towards "white" people, he had no concept of the level of poverty which existed in the north of England, then it dawned on me he had no idea where the north of England was! At that time the term "uncle tomming" was in vogue and he accused Miles of being a sap to the white man, which amazed me...
Performance February 26, 1967, The Village Theatre, New York. Albert Ayler (tenor sax, alto sax on 3) Donald Ayler (trumpet)
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George Schnell (trombone) (on 8 only) Joel Freedman (cello) William Folwell (bass) Alan Silva (bass) Beaver Harris (drumset) 1.Omega is the Alpha 2.Change Has Come 3.For John Coltrane (played by alto and strings only) 4.Heavenly Home 5.Light in Darkness 6.Spiritual Rebirth 7.Infinite Spirit 8.unknown title 1, 4-7 released on The Village Concerts 2 and 3 released on Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village 3 also on Re-evaluation: The Impulse Years AS9257-2 2 also on No Energy Crisis AS9267-2 and La Saga Heroique d'Albert Ayler AS-1024 and Pathe (France) 2C.154-92336 8 unissued, possibly destroyed. Along with his Impulse records contract, Albert was invited to endorse Buffet saxophones. In exchange for mentioning the brand of horn on all his record jackets, Albert got instruments, or at least discounts. He revived his past experiences with the alto and soprano, adding them to his performances, though no recording of his later soprano work have been issued. Albert was playing the soprano sax often with Mary Parks, teaching her. In addition to being Albert's lover, she managed his business affairs and booked at least one of the two aforementioned concerts.
Mary Parks: I would like to think that I was a force who continually inspired him on when at times he only wanted to meditate.200 Albert Ayler: All I do is meditate--I practice and I meditate. You have to go all the way, because that's what Coltrane did. The picture that he showed me when I looked into his eyes, that was the universal man.
Albert's idea of the universal man is important to him, he will return to it later, in his writings and in "Message from Albert" on the New Grass album.
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Mary not only pushed Albert to work, but she also affected his philosophy. Love began to join peace and spiritual unity in his pantheon.
Albert Ayler: All of this music is purely music of love. While it comes from meditation, it has nothing to do with mysticism. It tries to help bring about new approaches to living for everyone.
In March of 1967, Albert's first piece of prose appeared, in the British hippie newspaper IT: International Times. While it appears to be based on comments made in interviews over the last few years, it is much longer, less aphoristic, although it may have been distilled from conversations between Ayler and Alan Backett or John Hopkins (Wilmer 1997). Either way, it was likely developed during the previous year's tour stop in London and seems to be part of an effort by Albert and Impulse Records to reach the white counterculture.
When music changes, people change too. The revolution in jazz took place a long time ago. But, just this year, something happened. Everywhere people are asking, "What's happening, what's happening?" Today it seems that the world is trying to destroy itself. And nevertheless many people succeed in judging the world with an objective view, They see unkindness, hypocrisy, injustice, and hard labor that enables a human being to earn very little. If only we really wanted to think of these things, to go into our inner--spiritual--consciences with them, we would understand that we have to fight an endless battle (with ourselves), before winning over all the obstacles, before having acquired the true desire to change. The music we are playing today will help people to know themselves better and to find inner peace more easily. Inspiration is necessary to all of us. It can come from a word, a paragraph in a book, a painting, from a poem, a song, from numerous things, in short. But actually, nothing can really happen if you're not ready. The music we play is a prayer, a message coming from God. We all share the same emotion, but this emotion manifests itself differently according to the personality of each of us. Unfortunately for us, decor can provoke vulgar emotions in us, such as envy, covetousness, resentment, and contempt. A good many people are not touched by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost will lead all of us through the world someday. Look at the history of jazz: Bolden, Armstrong, Bird, Monk, Coltrane, Taylor, Ornette, etc., all had their own way of seeing things, all had new ideas, the hope of a new aesthetic which wouldn't know destruction, which neither power nor the established structure would be able to kill. The soul of each of us--the ideas of God are everywhere and His Spirit is always present--must achieve harmony and supreme goodness through His grace. The sublime ideas of God are everywhere (I should sooner say that a certain idea of perfection makes a way for itself). The Holy Ghost has been favorable to me. Music is one of the gifts God has given to us. It should be used for good works. We should always thank the Lord: then, we will understand how rich His blessings are in spiritual value and truth. We must let the sacred spirit of God enter our bodies and keep it there preciously. That's why a creator (or perfect man) is a being in spiritual communion, whose ideas are in total harmony with God. For me, the only way I can thank God for his everpresent creation, is to offer Him a new music imprinted with beauty that no one, before, had heard. This is the only thought that will make me a free man, beyond the limits of the material.
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Albert Ayler 1966-1967
Freedom isn't the privilege of a single generation; it's a conquest which must each time be undertaken over again. Freedom is victory. Those who have found Truth are able to communicate Love, to help those who suffer, people of the Earth as I call them. That the will of God be done, not that of men and women. The will of God is always loving and truthful; it includes harmony and generosity; it permits freedom and is always constructive. When we let the will of God produce itself in us, we will work with Him, and we will be blessed in all our actions. He will also help us to think justly and kindly. When all the people understand what links them spiritually to one another, Peace will reign on earth. All men will be men of good will. Spiritual Unity will reign then.
Performance April 1967, The Village Vanguard, New York. Albert Ayler (tenor and alto saxophones) Don Ayler (trumpet) Michel Sampson (violin and viola) Alan Silva (bass) William Folwell (bass) Beaver Harris (drumset) George Steele (trombone) (on the last 3 tunes only) Eight pieces were performed, using the following themes: "Jesus," "Light in the Darkness," "Change Has Come," "Heavenly Home," "Space Race," "Ghosts," "Spirits Rebel," "Truth is Marching in," "Passing Through," "Divine Peacemaker," "Our Prayer," "Spiritual Love," and "Peace." ("Our Prayer," "Spiritual Love," and "Peace" are by Don Ayler. The other unfamiliar titles will remain a mystery, since no tape of this concert has been released.) Call Cobbs had been invited to appear on harpsichord, but did not show up. Harris was featured in a "swing-style" drum solo. George Steele is probably the same person as George Schnell, the trombonist from the February 26, 1967 show, but his identity is a mystery. In these large group performances, Albert has taken his instrumental music to its zenith. The compositions are his most elaborate multi-part themes, spectacularly orchestrated. Songs such as "Truth is Marching In," "Our Prayer," and "Prophecy" take on new life, compared to their earlier versions. It is astonishing how much the two additional strings add to the group, compared to the 1966 quintet recordings, giving the sound of a much larger group. The coloristic approach of the 1964 quartet is revived and expanded as the band recalls everything from Eastern European folk music to avant-garde classical composers such as Ligeti and Penderecki. These performances are full of amazing moments, such as on the December 18 version of "Divine Peacemaker," when the strings saw away at steady eighth notes, Don plays a martial theme and Albert begins a very soft squeal on the tenor. As he crescendos, Beaver Harris comes thundering in on the tom-toms and the ensemble breaks apart for a wild saxophone solo. Unique and colorful ensemble events like this one abound in these mostly spontaneous arrangements.
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The February 26 recordings have their own special points of interest, as Michel Sampson is inexplicably absent. His replacement by Joel Freedman, and the presence of Alan Silva instead of Henry Grimes, greatly change the sound of the group. Grimes and Silva often played together with Cecil Taylor and had clearly assigned roles within that band. Grimes played pizzicato and communicated mostly with the piano and drums, while Silva bowed in the highest registers in rapport with the horns. While all of Ayler's string players use a variety of techniques, traditional and experimental, Freedman and Silva are more interested in producing a wide variety of sound than in conventional virtuosity. Sampson and Grimes stay relatively close to the usual roles of their instruments, by comparison. Also, Beaver Harris is far more restrained on the later date. On the December 18 recordings he plays patterns around the drums, using the whole kit as a unified instrument and relying strongly on the toms. He plays very loud, often obscuring the strings. On February 26, he plays like an orchestral percussionist, using the elements of his set independently as well as together, exploring timbre as well as mass. The larger groups gave Ayler the best compositional medium of his career, but he continued to limit his improvising as he had on the European tour. He only plays diatonic counterpoint to themes or shrill monotonous free solos. Only on "Prophecy" (a.k.a. "Angels"), with Call Cobbs' piano does Ayler seem to improvise with his full genius. This can be seen as a sign of a coming conservatism in Ayler's music, the progress of which can be seen in all his following recordings.
Call Cobbs: There's no stopping point, you go out and expand. So with Albert, we would practice on things and I think he learned from me on some things. I'd make it more conventional because I heard this. I didn't want to make it that way but I had to see it, so he'd say "How do you like this" and I'd say "Yeah!" So he'd say "Well, play it again in that way." We were following each other.
Performance June 30, 1967, The Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, Rhode Island. Albert Ayler (tenor, alto, and soprano saxes) Don Ayler (trumpet) Michel Sampson (violin) William Folwell (bass) Milford Graves (drumset and other percussion) titles unknown This was Albert Ayler's only festival appearance in the United States. Albert seized the opportunity to put on a spectacular performance.
Albert Ayler: But if the people don't like it now, they will. People are coming from every direction and appreciation of the truth is just a matter of time. Coltrane said [in 1966] it would be two years before I would be on top of the whole thing and it looks like everything is holding true. Ira Gitler: Albert Ayler [was seen] out "catting" with a powerfully bright, varied wardrobe, doing the "festival thing" with record company execs and club owners.
Just as Albert seemed ready to break through to popular success, things began to go awry. First, Michel
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Albert Ayler 1966-1967
Sampson left the group to return to his classical career. Then, on July 17, John Coltrane died. A thousand people gathered for the funeral which, at Coltrane's request, included performances by Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman. Performance Albert Ayler (tenor sax) Don Ayler (trumpet) Richard Davis (bass) Milford Graves (percussion) 1.Truth is Marching In recorded by Bob Thiele, unreleased.
J.C.Thomas: During his portion of the music, Ayler stopped, twice, and screamed; not with his horn but with his voice, the first scream like a cry of pain and the other like a shout of joy that Coltrane, though dead, would live forever.
After the funeral, Albert and Don were interviewed by Frank Kofsky. Albert spoke regarding their performance that day.
Albert Ayler: Like very, very old tunes, you know, before I was even born, just come in my mind. It's fantastic, fantastic. I talked to somebody today who said "I heard a little of this, and I heard a little of that." And I said to him, "Well, if you heard that, that was beautiful. Thanks for telling me." 'Cause I'm trying to play as much as I can in my lifetime, like being a true messenger. John [Coltrane] was like a visitor to this planet. He came in peace and he left in peace; but during his time here, he tried to reach new levels of awareness, of peace, of spirituality. That's why I regard the music he played as sacred music--John's way of getting closer and closer to the Creator.
Albert also spoke about Milford Graves.
Because the spiritual forces are uniting through the folk, through the folk... My drummer, Milford Graves, he plays rhythms from all over the world.
Albert finally recorded with Graves in August of 1967, while Beaver Harris was touring with Archie Shepp. Recording Session August 31, 1967, Capitol Studios, New York Albert Ayler (alto sax and vocal on "Love Cry," tenor sax on all other titles) Don Ayler (trumpet) Call Cobbs (piano & harpsichord) Alan Silva (bass)
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Milford Graves (percussion) 1.Love Cry (AA vocal and alto, CC out) 2.Ghosts (CC out) 3.Omega [is the Alpha] (DA out) 4.Dancing Flowers (DA out) 5.Bells (CC out) 6.Love Flower (DA out) all titles released on Impulse AS9165, GRD-108 (CD) and (Japan) IMP88072, YP8549, titled Love Cry. 1, 2, 3 and 5 also on Pathe (France) 2C.154-92337, La Saga Heroique d'Albert Ayler 1 also on AS9257-2, Re-evaluation: The Impulse Years 2 also on ASH-9253-3, The Drums, and ASH9272-3, The Saxophone. In September, the quintet of Albert (bringing soprano and tenor saxes), Don, Call Cobbs, Rashied Ali, and mystery bassist Bill Davis, performed at "L'Atelier du Jazz" in Montreal. It was Albert's only Canadian show and would be his last with his brother. Recording Session February 13, 1967, New York same personnel as August 31, AA plays alto on 4, tenor on all others, plus vocals where listed. 1.Love Cry II (actually an free improvisation) (CC out, AA vocal) 2.Zion Hill (DA out) 3.Universal Indians (CC out, AA vocal) 4.Zion Hill (DA out) 5.Universal Indians (CC out, AA vocal) all titles released on Impulse GRD-108 (CD), Love Cry. 4 & 5 on Impulse AS9165, Love Cry, AS9257-2, Re-evaluation: The Impulse Years, and Pathe (France) 2C.154-92337, La Saga Heroique d'Albert Ayler. on all issues except GRD-108, 5 was edited by 2:20. The CD of Love Cry contains the complete version. Love Cry was recorded in order to take advantage of Albert's exposure at the Newport festival. Though it contains some amazing music, it is the first of Ayler's albums that could be said to be commercially motivated. The majority of pieces are quite short, in order to encourage airplay. The first session for this album was devoted primarily to recording condensed versions of Albert's most popular compositions.
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Albert improvises only in his contrapuntal style, and Don solos only on "Love Cry II" (which would wait 23 years to be released, possibly due to Impulse's desire to commercialize Albert's music). The new compositions are peculiar, three themeless ballads, "Dancing Flower," "Love Flower," and "Zion Hill," featuring the strange sound of the electric harpsichord, and two incredibly simplified bugle calls, "Love Cry" and "Universal Indians." These two pieces are Ayler's first extended vocals and are truly frightening. Ayler sings much like he plays the saxophone, long phrases, deep vibrato, and sudden register leaps. Despite the unsavory motives behind it, Love Cry is a fantastic album, due to the performances of Silva and Graves. For the first time, Albert Ayler is accompanied by musicians who, like him, have created their own technical vocabularies on their instruments. "Universal Indians" shows this best, as it is the longest piece on the album, and the only one to feature extended soloing (except for the belatedly issued "Love Cry II"). Ayler first moans a counter melody to Donald's statement of the two note theme, his voice blending with Alan Silva's bowed slides on bass, before picking up his tenor for the only solo on this record that explores the timbral universe he had previously discovered. Graves and Silva are featured in a duo that includes such unusual sounds as sliding bass harmonics accompanied by a gong, congas, and tabla. Both are in continuous motion, working with enormous vocabularies of notes and noises. They represent the next wave of free musicians, who have taken the advances of Taylor, Coleman, Coltrane, and, of course, Ayler, as their starting point.
Alan Silva: The period I spent with Albert Ayler was like a bass-player's dream, because he played so much of the whole instrument.
Though Love Cry was designed to diminish the controversy surrounding Ayler's music and satisfy Impulse Records, it failed in the latter. Milford Graves, an outspoken advocate of musicians' self-reliance and cultural integrity, was perceived as "too political" by record company executives. Ayler was asked to stop using him, and there is no record that Graves ever performed with Albert Ayler again.
Milford Graves: When you come up and act like a man, I see you don't get that respect. I see that if people don't see that they can manipulate you, then they have no use for you. I guess I wasn't supposed to be politically active, talking about musicians doing self-help programs and recording themselves. I guess I was supposed to come up to the studio, shaking the A & R man's hand, shaking the President's hand and showing teeth like the real traditional thing.
Albert Ayler performed only twice in public during 1968. In April he staged his Songs of Zion--New Opera: Universal Message: Songs of David with five singers. Unfortunately, nothing else is known about this work, which comes at a crossroads in his career, except that Lee Santa sent me this flyer:
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His original copy is red ink on white paper. I hope to include Mr. Santa's recollections of this show in an
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updated version of this text. In August Albert played at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York with his steady sidemen Call Cobbs (piano and organ), Bill Folwell (bass), and Beaver Harris (drums). Donald Ayler was fired from the group during the summer. One can only speculate why Albert would reject his own brother. Certainly there was record company pressure, since Don's contribution to Love Cry was intentionally kept to a minimum. And, since Albert used keyboards steadily in his group from here on, he may have realized that Don's energy playing was unsuited to the new music he was working on. Don claims that he left because of the increasing influence of Mary Parks on Albert's music, but a description of Don's performance leading his own band, anonymously published in the magazine The Cricket, edited by LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka), A.B. Spellman, and Larry Neal, shows otherwise.
"The Crickets": The Committee for Unified Newark, in its series of Black Arts/Soul Culture goings on. BMIE has had some dopey ones too, for instance, Donald Ayler played there. With his murphy game shoutin thru the shit he was sayin on stage, drunk, zipper open, staggering, he call his self a musician. Really just a cheap version with no identity, purpose and direction; nigger lacks. A value system. Right and wrong. Good and bad. Up and down. In and out. Up on stage with Bee ber Harris, who white wee moans, dun sucked about all his juice/energy from him insides. Slobin on his self. Unconscious of who he is or where he is going. Has no value system. Umoja, nia, kuumba (unity, purpose, creativity) and the rest. Laws that you live your life by, unchanging, good. Came to New Ark "playing" in this quick trio put together by Ayler, (who has since, said Sonny Murray, gone back to his hometown Cleveland to re cooperate, re gather, hopefully come back, BLACK). Which had on the first night on Indian oboe, (due to bullshit reasons) said his trumpet was stolen, and wanted to borrow our alto sax.; he did and broke it. We had to suffer, his "playing" one beatup note all night, which would probably have been the same on alto. Next night they came back Ayler had a trumpet which he said the "spirit brought to him" and played the same big ass run, the whole set. While in his rhythm section Richard Davis, bass, had the only strong sound anyone there could use. BH slobbered and nodded on his drums in a dopey daze, rocking back and forth to a crazy image of some dead white bitch. Splash! was his sound the whole night.
This is a very literary document, but its language only helps make clear the sad state that the younger Ayler brother had reached. Albert had probably realized that Donald was losing his mind and drinking to excess. As Sunny Murray told the authors of the above review, Don returned to Cleveland, sought spiritual and, after Albert's death, psychological help, and has occasionally played music since his recovery.
Don Ayler: Yeah, well I got sick for a period of time, I admit it, I had a nervous breakdown simply because I was into Yoga too deep...standing on my head six hours a day, and half lotus maybe four hours a day. I just went to the extremes. At that period of time there were just so many vibrations out there not knowing what it was all about. I guess I had been feeling something as far as my brother's life was concerned. All I could do was be in prayer, Yoga, you know. I was in the institution not very long though, a period of maybe a couple of months. Eventually I got out of it, returned back. I was feeling something at that period of time, I guess I couldn't put my finger on it and when my brother passed, then I realized why I felt the way I felt. From then on I've been playing around, sitting in sometimes around Cleveland.
Also in this magazine appeared the longest piece of writing by Albert Ayler. It is in the form of an open letter/sermon and follows, in its entirety, without modification.
To Mr. Jones-I Had a Vision Brothers and Sisters,
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Listen. A few weeks ago I beared witness to my last Miracle; Here it is: Fear God and give glory to him for the hour of his judgment is come. Worship him that made the heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of waters. Babylon is fallen, that great city because he made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. If any men worship the beast an his image an receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation. Revelation 14:7:10 Let every soul be subjected unto the higher power for there is no power but of God. Romans 13:1 They have healed also the hurt of the daughter people slightly, say peace, peace, peace when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:14 I HAD A VISION It was at night when I had this vision. In this vision there was a large object flying around with bright colors in a disc form. Immediately I thought of the flying scorpion that I had read about in the chapter of Revelation from the Holy Bible, but when the object started turning I saw that first it was flat then it turned sideways and started to shoot radiant colors at first then it would turn back to the same position. I was running with my brother when it aimed at us but it didn't touch us at all. I guess this is what they are calling the flying saucers. Anyway it was revealed to me that we had the right seal of God almighty in our forehead. One morning I was awakened by all the kids upstairs running to the window because of a sound outside that was so piercing it was paralyzing. It was revealed to me a few weeks later that it was Gabriel sounding the warning. This was the angel of Jesus standing on his right side, and that Gabriel is the spirit of sound and strength. The sound lasted for five minutes. Every thing will happen fast so be ready. I dreamed of a man starting to make war with a lamb, the man suddenly looked around and there was a man standing there with large swords on a disc throwing with perfection. It seemed to me like the magic of the creator. The swords had a bright color too then clear as a crystal. I remembered again the book of Revelations about how Jesus would come with a very sharp sword. In a night vision I saw a very dark sky and I looked up and saw a large star falling as fast as it could move. Brothers and Sisters you see there is only Heaven and Earth. There are no other planets. The planet that they call Venus is Zion Hill, the home of God Almighty. That's why it is written he created the Heaven and Earth, the Sea and the Fountains of Waters and all the things therein. On the seventh day he rested. The seventh day he rested on is the Sabbath day, of which is the fourth commandment. Now we must follow the tenth commandment. This is the spiritual law of God Almighty. Now you see all the talk about other planets has only been an illusion. I say unto you that whosoever breaketh the tenth commandment is servants of sin. Brothers, watch the sex acts because your blood is your strength. Elijah Mohammed is the true Prophet. Cleanliness is Godliness. Don't forget that arguing with each other is bad because if you do the devil angel is laughing in the closet, so be careful. You see if you argue the Holy angels leave you because they are of oneness of harmony, so don't bring on the devil. The devil angel thrives off of uncleanliness, curse words, blasphemy, and discord. In the forehead of Satan written across his forehead the word blasphemy is there. That is his name also so be very careful and respect God's laws, so you won't receive the devil's mark in your forehead or your right hand. I have seen a few people with the mark already so be very careful and God's angels will be with you even unto the end. Eat only the green things and no meat at all if possible. And pray always from your
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Albert Ayler 1966-1967
heart and God Almighty will hear you. If you do you won't be afraid of the terror by night nor for the arrow that flieth by day because he will always be at your side. Remember that contention and discord quench the spirit of prayer. Many grieve the spirit and drive Christ form their homes by giving way to impatience and passions. Thus saith the Lord...If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My behalf on My Holy day and call the Sabbath a delight the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I shall cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." Read my friend. I saw in a vision the new Earth built by God coming out of Heaven. Years ago they called it New Jerusalem. It was a solid foundation built by God himself. It is not like the foundation we have now where men seek to kill each other's spirit. The vision I had of Jesus coming again, it was at night again; large clouds forming in the east and something said to me this is the way Jesus is coming. The Son of God would be coming in his father's name, God Almighty. So be ready when that time comes, because it could happen in the wink of an eye. Remember he said you know not the minute or the hour, so let's be obedient children to God's laws. We live in darkness now; God Almighty is the God of lights. You see there are mighty angels from Heaven and they are very large. Bright as the sun. Another way to describe it is like the color of lightning magnified ten times. So you'd better get ready for the bright lights that will appear in the sky. It has been written on the wall of the universe by God Almighty for me to see and give you this message. So don't transgress any of God's Laws. The time is at hand. Make up leaflets and pass out to all people Revelation 14, verse 7 to 10. This is very important that everybody should know this will save your soul and you will see a beautiful eternity. I'll have more to say next time. We must move this by chain letters and get it in the papers in as many parts of the U.S.A. as possible. This is very important. The time is now. Albert Ayler
One's first instinct on reading this article is to call it insane and to try to psychoanalyze Albert. This is highly reductive, and unfair to Ayler, who was well educated and articulate. While this letter does seem like the sort of thing one might be handed by a street person, it is also, in its language if not content, within the religious discourses that Albert had been exposed to as a child. Another easy reaction would be to dismiss these visions as products of psychedelic drugs, which were very common at this time, especially in the East Village where Ayler lived, which had become a hippie center. While Ayler spoke against drugs, he smoked marijuana at least occasionally (the "smoke" of Sunny Murray, Val Wilmer, and Beaver Harris' tour anecdotes). John Coltrane tried LSD at least once, during the recording of the album Om, and it is possible that Ayler did as well, maybe on Coltrane's recommendation. "To Mr. Jones..." is a pastiche of the biblical book of Revelations, with elements of Black Muslim teaching, other current spiritual ideas, and Ayler's own opinions. The fact that Elijah Muhammed is mentioned is quite odd, given Ayler's seeming embrace of a Coltrane-like polymysticism with a strong Christian flavor, but the NOI has often been a topic of conversation among radical musicians (Wilmer 1997). The theories of vegetarianism andself-discipline had been circulating in the progressive black musical community and were shared to some degree by Coltrane, Marion Brown, Pharaoh Sanders, Eric Dolphy and others. As for the visions themselves, Ayler's conversation had always had an apocalyptic tone. His religious upbringing combined with the political and cultural events of the late 1960's, especially for African-Americans, makes such a belief fully understandable. The deaths of Dr. King, Malcolm X, the Kennedys, the Vietnam war, the repression of the Black Power movement, including the intense persecution of LeRoi Jones, among others, the death of John Coltrane, the widespread violent rejection of the new jazz, increasing police attacks against blacks and members of the counter-culture, all these things and more could easily lead one to
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Albert Ayler 1966-1967
expect, and even hope for apocalypse. To Table of Contents To Chapter Five
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