This is the third release in Atavisitic’s “Unheard Music” series that has been reviewed in PopMatters, following Joe McPhee’s Nation Time and the Peter Brotzmann Sextet/Quartet’s Nipples. This then makes it three for three (and it’ll be four for four when I finally review the Fred Anderson Quartet’s The Milwaukee Tapes, Vol. 1) for John Corbett, who has been principally responsible for resurrecting these out-of-print masterpieces. From the first notes of the sonic explosion that starts Waves off, you know immediately that you’re in for something amazing. Nothing on the rest of the album disappoints these expectations. I’ve been lucky enough to review a string of great jazz albums over the past few months, which means that I’m starting to run out of superlatives to convey just how great this sounds. So I hope you’ll understand that I mean very high praise indeed when I say that the Mount Everest Trio smokes.
Waves from Albert Ayler might suggest that this album constitutes a celebration of Ayler’s jazz. It does, but more indirectly than it might in a straightforward tribute album. Only the standout first track, “Spirits,” is an Ayler composition. The rest, which are primarily original compositions by members of the trio (the exception being Ornette Coleman’s “Ramblin’”), reflect Ayler’s inspirational approach to jazz. Just as waves radiate outward and impart their motion and energy to distant shores, Ayler’s music ripples through the brains and fingers of saxophonist Gilbert Holmstrom, bassist Kjell Jansson and drummer Conny Sjokvist. As with Ayler, the tracks here are both intricately composed and complexly improvised, and played with unreal intensity, focus and volume. Recorded in 1975, with some additional tracks added from 1977, the Swedish trio’s album fires on all cylinders all the way through. The poet Ted Joans once described the impact of Ayler’s 1964 Spiritual Unity as being equivalent to screaming “Fuck!” in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. If Waves doesn’t quite have this impact, its furious, funky energy is a joy to a behold and a real revelation even 25 years after its first release. A shame that the trio is no longer together. Screaming horns, rumbling, simmering bass lines, racing drums, exploding adrenaline, splashes of sweat, sweet chunks of noise-this totally blew me away. You might just want to plan on picking up all of the releases that Atavistic is thinking of putting out over the next few years.
One last thing: I don’t know if it’s a Swedish thing, but just as with the liner notes to the latest release by Sweden’s folk-metal gods, Hoven Droven, Mats Gustafsson’s new liner notes for Waves are very, very strange. It begins: “I know two very dedicated dentists who are both working with relocating, reshaping and repairing the white mountainhard filters that humans have—IN BETWEEN SOUNDS TO COME AND SOUNDS TO BE HEARD!—in their mouths!” Um, yeah. Gustafsson gets it right, though. A rambling, poetic essay is just the right thing to accompany the Mount Everest Trio’s rambling, poetic tear through the waves radiating out from Albert Ayler’s plunge into jazz.