ESP's first recording session was on July 10, 1964, in the tiny Variety Arts Recording Studio, just off Times Square. Just before 1 PM, Sunny Murray arrived, a large, genial walrus, moving and speaking with an easy agility that belied his appearance. Gary Peacock was next, tall, thin, ascetic looking, and soft spoken, with an introspective and kindly demeanor. Albert Ayler was last, small, wary and laconic. The walls of the reception area were covered with Latin album jackets. The engineer quickly set up the mikes and began the session. ESP-Disk' owner Bernard Stollman sat outside in the reception area with Annette Peacock, Gary's wife. As the music was heard through the open outer door of the control room, felt a sense of jubilation. At one point, the engineer fled the control room for a few minutes, but returned in time to change the tape for the next selection. When the session was over, Bernard learned that it had been recorded in monaural, although he remembered requesting a stereo recording. Happily, the engineer Joe had properly miked and mixed the session, and the recording stands today as a classic of the genre. After the session, the participants sat in a coffee shop next door, while they were paid and signed recording agreements. A few days later, B saw them off on their flight to Europe from Idlewild International Airport for a European tour. Don Cherry was with them.
For the Spiritual Unity 50th Anniversary Expanded Edition, we have added a bonus track: the performance briefly and accidentally substituted for "Spirits" on an early vinyl edition. It is the same tune known as "Vibrations" on the album of that title on Arista/Freedom (AKA Ghosts when issued on Debut) and as "[tune Q]2" on the Revenant box set Holy Ghost. It will be the first time both "Spirits" and "Vibrations" have been on a single ESP edition of Spiritual Unity.
released January 1, 1964
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Gary Peacock: bass
Sunny Murray: drums
"Spiritual Unity was the album that pushed Albert Ayler to the forefront of jazz's avant-garde, and the first jazz album ever released by Bernard Stollman's seminal ESP label. It was really the first available document of Ayler's music that matched him with a group of truly sympathetic musicians, and the results are a magnificently pure distillation of his aesthetic. Bassist Gary Peacock's full-toned, free-flowing ideas and drummer Sunny Murray's shifting, stream-of-consciousness rhythms (which rely heavily on shimmering cymbal work) are crucial in throwing the constraints off of Ayler's playing. Yet as liberated and ferociously primitive as Ayler sounds, the group isn't an unhinged mess -- all the members listen to the subtler nuances in one another's playing, pushing and responding where appropriate. Their collective improvisation is remarkably unified -- and as for the other half of the album's title, Ayler conjures otherworldly visions of the spiritual realm with a gospel-derived fervor." - Steve Huey
Tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler, one of the most controversial and polarizing musicians in the history of jazz, pioneered a
new style of playing and became an icon of "free jazz." The playing of both Ayler and his band mates was of such great spontaneity and imagination that no two performances are remotely the same beyond their themes -- and their emotional intensity....more