The Oddyssey Quartet

Suite for the End of the Earth
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A passionate if somewhat puzzling billet doux to Albert Ayler, this brief (31 minute) Suite for the End of the Earth is compelling in many ways, but seems to salute the memory of the late tenor saxophonist rather than the precedent shattering sounds he produced in his short life.

On the Ayler-connection side of the equation in its favor is that The Oddyssey Quartet’s bassist is Bill Folwell who was in Ayler’s group for a time in the 1960s. Plus soprano and tenor saxophonist David Pate, who is front and centre most of the time, is an accomplished honker who can propel atonal tones forward with the best.

However as good as he is with Free-ish playing, Pate, who was in Sam Rivers’ Rivbea Orchestra, seems to lack the yawp, frenzy absurdity and absolute speaking-in-tongues that marked Ayler soloing. Furthermore the seven tracks are composed by and feature guitarist Rex Shepherd. Again while the guitarist on tracks such as “Sailing off the Edge of a Flat Globe” and “Incomprehensible (Nearing the Speed of Light)” easily demonstrates his versatility, it reflects his own Rock-Free Jazz sensibility, not Ayler’s. Throughout he makes common cause with Pate’s squeals and sprays in many tempos, with buoyant swing, super-fast chording and on the second tune, knob-twisting chunky distortions and flanges. But except for one Rock-style and horn section-overdubbed LP, Ayler himself avoided the guitar. And when on the concluding near-boogie-Rocker, “Albert's Ghost (I've Been Waiting for You)”, as Shepherd asserts himself with agile almost Surf guitar runs and later texture-shredding flanges and frails, the upshot is about as far from Ayler’s gospel-and-standards playing concept as could be imagined.

Ready with a backbeat or shuffle when needed, drummer Jose Cochez takes a mid-track solo on “Albert's Ghost (I've Been Waiting for You)”, which confirms the quartet’s Rock-R&B grounding. Folwell, who confines himself to producing balanced downwards rhythms alongside Cochez’s tick-tock beat on most of the tunes, on the disc adds trumpet to Pate’s saxophone on the same tune. This evocation of the Memphis Horns suggests that maybe the ghost expected is that of Albert King or Collins rather than Ayler.

One can’t doubt The Oddyssey Quartet’s sincerity in dedicating a CD to a major Free Jazz icon. But by working out the music on this disc in their own style, the band doesn’t really to piggyback on another name. Ignore the homage and concentrate on the music.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Cognitive Dissonance (Makers of Our Own Demise 2. Sailing off the Edge of a Flat Globe 3. As the Fog Settles in My Left Hemisphere 4. Incomprehensible (Nearing the Speed of Light) 5. Long Distance (Gone and to Go) 6. Alien Planet from the Sky (Arriving) 7. Albert's Ghost (I've Been Waiting for You)

Personnel: David Pate (soprano and tenor saxophones); Rex Shepherd (guitar and prepared guitar); Bill Folwell (bass and trumpet) and Jose Cochez (drums)