Albert Ayler Trio - Spiritual Unity (1965), 8/10

One of the few instances of pure spiritual free jazz that I can fully get behind. I can tell when I'm itching for some free jazz when my ear starts playing the intro to "Ghosts"; it is unmistakable and a peculiarly common occurrence. Ayler created something truly unique in '64 (recorded in July of 1964 and released in 1965) and essentially left all of the existing ideas in jazz at the time behind to explore something brand new. Spiritual Unity is certainly one of the greatest early free jazz recordings and one that took the movement to a whole new plane. Only the trio of Gary Peacock, the legendary Sunny Murray and Ayler himself could produce such a shockingly massive sound laced with intricacy yet grand design. It was clearly a landmark recording session and truly pushed the boundaries of composition driven improvisation, but as a listening experience it excels in creating a truly transcendent set of melodies and expressing Ayler's tremendously unique style of performance. Of course Ayler was influenced by his contemporaries such as Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor who were also pushing the boundaries with unique projects of their own, but his recording would transcend them all in profound meaning and singularity. Spiritual Unity was so legendary in fact that when Ayler sent a copy to Coltrane, John promptly convinced Impulse! to sign him. Even considering his characteristic generosity, that is massive praise from the chief. It is a special recording in that Spiritual Unity seizes the soul of fury-fueled free jazz while displaying a multitude of catchy melodies, something Ayler truly excelled at crafting and performing with exceptional gusto, capturing the essence of fire music. Val Willmer (author of As Serious As Your Life: Black Music and the Free Jazz Revolution, 1957–1977) put it nicely: Spiritual Unity "revolutionised the direction for anyone playing those three instruments. The music was shockingly different - Ayler disquietingly harsh and brutal but at the same time deeply tinged with pathos". This dual threat of harsh sounds with magnificent meaning is what sets it apart from other groundbreaking recordings of the time. The free improvisation tinged with authentically interconnected performances makes for something special, taking the ideas presented with Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz to an even greater extreme of both idealization and structural modulation. The melodies themselves are impactful enough, but Ayler and Peacock’s boundless, sweeping improvisation along with Murray’s masterful percussive exhibition make the experience an unrivaled metaphysical encounter of the celestial variety. Spiritual Unity was an evolutionary recording for avant-garde music and for jazz musicians everywhere.