Albert Ayler's 1969 album New Grass has been misunderstood from the day of its release. The album finds Ayler experimenting with soul music and digging back into his R&B roots (he started his career playing saxophone with Chicago bluesman Little Walter), fusing it with the avant-garde free jazz (the one element of the record which garnered consistent praise) and adding the vocals of Rose Marie McCoy, The Soul Singers and Ayler himself. As if predicting the divisiveness of the record to follow, Ayler speaks directly to the listener and explains that New Grass is nothing like his albums before - that it is of "a different dimension of his life" - in the album opener "Message From Albert".
New Grass deserves reconsideration, if not for the heavy grooves and surprising arrangements, then for its bravery in challenging norms of the time; by the '60s, jazz was well-accepted as a uniquely American art form, while soul as a genre was very much still seen as primitive. Ayler melds them together and creates something novel, adventurous, and completely his own.
At the time of its release, despite its divisive reception, New Grass helped break down the unnecessary walls dividing genres and revealed music's potential freedoms. The album has gone on to influence generations of Jazz, R&B, Funk, Hip Hop, Post Punk, No Wave and unshrinking artists like Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Funkadelic, Jungle Brothers, Red Krayola, Sonic Youth and Mark E. Smith.
Leave it to Jack White's Third Man Records to swoop in and rescue New Grass from ignominy with a new vinyl pressing that sounds as startling and incredible as it ever has. The rhythm section especially sounds intensely present, as if Purdie and Folwell are sitting behind you and playing along as the record spins. This reissue also opens up another well of regret that Ayler wasn't able to more fully explore these sounds and ideas before his untimely death in late 1970.
Ayler's respected standing in avant-garde circles made the abrupt stylistic shift of his 1969 album New Grass all the more baffling. Instead of the structureless squall he was known for, here was Ayler singing lead on AM-radio pop songs and superimposing his unhinged sax skronk over funk, soul, and rock rhythms. Freshly remastered and reissued by Third Man in its first vinyl pressing in over 40 years, the wildly mismatched colors of New Grass still don't resemble anything else... Similar to Arthur Russell's hermetic dance tracks or Muddy Waters' surreal stabs at psychedelic rock on Electric Mud, Ayler's notion of popular music was so distanced from reality that it became its own self-contained universe.
- 180g Vinyl
- First pressing in almost 40 years
- Gatefold jacket
|Albert Ayler||tenor saxophone, vocals|
|Seldon Powell||tenor saxophone, flute|
|Buddy Lucas||baritone saxophone|
|Call Cobbs||piano, harpsichord, organ|
|Bernard "Pretty" Purdie||drums|
|Rose Marie McCoy||vocals|
|The Soul Singers||vocals|
- Message From Albert / New Grass
- New Generation
- Sun Watcher
- New Ghosts
- Heart Love
- Everybody's Movin
- Free At Last