AMN Reviews: Mars Williams – Presents an Ayler Xmas Vol. 2 (2018; ESP Disk)

Hang around the Chicago creative music scene long enough and you’ll run into Mars Williams – probably on a regular basis. Whether playing with one of his many bands or attending a show as a fan, Williams is a recurring fixture. One of these groups that does not get much recognition is Witches & Devils, which plays sporadically and mostly on holidays. The seemingly ridiculous premise of the outfit is to combine the free jazz of Albert Ayler with Christmas songs. This, their sophomore release, provides that the proposition is far from absurd, and instead approaches the sublime.

Recorded live over two sessions with two different groups, Ayler Xmas Vol. 2 deftly combines Ayler’s unconventionally aggressive and spiritual stylings juxtaposed with traditional melodies and tunes. Three tracks were recorded by Witches & Devils in Chicago, the band consisting of Williams on sax, Josh Berman on cornet, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, Jim Baker on piano, viola, and Arp, Kent Kessler on bass, Brian Sandstrom on bass, guitar, and trumpet, and Steve Hunt drums. The other two went down in Vienna with Williams, Thomas Berghammer on trumpet, Hermann Stangassinger on bass, Didi Kern on drums and percussion, and Christof Kurzmann on lloopp and vocals. The larger Chicago group provides more diversity and atmospherics, while the Vienna ensemble stays relentlessly busy and offers up a bit of singing.

As might be expected, Williams and company rarely allow the holiday carols and songs to go undisturbed, as they insert more than a little blistering chaos. As a prime example, the second track is a medley of O Tannenbaum (with vocals and background improv), an uncompromising version of Ayler’s Spirits (rapid-fire bent notes and all), followed by a brief rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas that is all Ayler. Another high point is the Chicago group’s dense take on the woefully underrated Love Cry.

This recording is probably not for your next office party, unless your office is far more interesting than mine and you don’t mind being accused of blasphemy. But Williams pulls off an admirable job of keeping the spirit of Ayler alive almost 50 years after his death, not to mention making a combination that sounds silly in theory work remarkably well in practice. Two thumbs up (three if you’re big on Ayler).

A Closer Listen Reviews

Source: A Closer Listen.

Ian William Craig ~ Thresholder

Emilía ~ Spring through a window

David Vélez ~ The Things That Objects Can Teach Us About Ourselves

Daniel Bjarnason ~ Collider

ACL 2018 ~ Music for Haunted Houses

Tim Shiel ~ Glowing Pains: Music from The Gardens Between / Interview

Nate Wooley Interview

Source: The Log Journal.

On October 31 and November 1, Issue Project Room will present the second FOR/WITH Festival. The festival is geared toward new compositions, with a special emphasis on the trumpet. Trumpeter Nate Wooley initiated and curates the fest, which this year will present works by Ashley Fure, Catherine Lamb, Felipe Lara, Annea Lockwood, and Wadada Leo Smith. Wooley recently took some time off from organizing and practicing to talk to National Sawdust Log about trumpet music and his objectives with the festival.

Just Outside Reviews

Source: Just Outside.

Tyshawn Sorey – Pillars (Firehouse 12)

Thrainn Hjalmarsson – Influence of Buildings on Musical Tone (Carrier)

Jérôme Noetinger/Robert Piotrowicz/Anna Zaradny – CRACKFINDER (Musica Genera)

Espen Lund – Blow.Amplifier (no label)

Kaori Suzuki – Conduit (Second Editions)

Tonus – Intermediate Obscurities I + IV (A New Wave in Jazz)

Tonus – Texture Point (A New Wave in Jazz)

Tonus – Cagean Morphology (A New Wave in Jazz)

Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

Source: Downtown Music Gallery.

Marc Ribot’s Songs of Resistance! Matthew Shipp Solo! Two from Elliott Sharp: ‘Dispersion’ & ‘Calling All Earthlings’! Guillermo Gregorio / Rafal Mazur / Raymon Lopez! Vinny Golia New Music & Michael Moss Accidental Orchestras! Jerome Sabbagh & Greg Touhey!

Three from Hat [Now] Morton Feldman / Karlheinz Stockhausen / Roland Dahinden! Yuhan Su & Matt Holman! Archival Sounds from: Suicide! Dinosaur, Jr.! Chet Atkins!

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry! Arthur Russell DVD! LP’s from B.A.G.: Oliver Lake/Baikida Carroll/Joseph Bowie/Charles Bobo Shaw/Floyd LeFlore! Roland Young’s Infinite Sound! Roscoe Holcomb & Wade Ward! Take a Knife and Open My Heart – Rare Flamenco Collection!

Upcoming Sets at Downtown Music Gallery – FREE, every Sunday at 6pm

Sunday, October 28h:
6pm: MAX KUTNER & GREGG BENDIAN – Guitarist from Evil Genius meets Drummer from Mahavishnu Project

November 4th, 2018:
6pm: RADIO I-CHING DUO: ANDY HAAS and DON FIORINO – Saxes and Guitar
7pm: DAVID GROLLMAN / AL MARGOLIS / LUCAS BRODE – Snare Drum / Tapes / Guitar

November 11th:
7pm: SAM NEWSOME and SANDY EWEN – Soprano Sax and Guitar

DMG is located at 13 Monroe St. (between Catherine & Market Sts) in a basement below a small gallery. Take the F train to East Broadway or the 6 train to Canal or the B or D to Grand, or the M-15 bus to Madison & Catherine. Come on Down, the Sunday Music Series is Always Free & the Vibes are Always Cosy. You can check the weekly in-store sets through our Instagram feed



Monday, November 12th at 7:30pm
Roulette, 509 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Current schedule of Musicians:

Kirk Knuffke Solo
John Zorn & Ned Rothenberg
Thollem McDonas / Nels Cline / William Parker
Joanna Mattrey
Michael Foster & Leila Bordreuil
Jessica Pavone
Matthew Shipp & Michael Bisio
Tom Rainey / Steve Swell / Brandon Lopez
John Blum – solo piano