Prima Materia

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Bells Review

by Scott Yanow

On May 1, 1965, at Town Hall, the innovative tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler performed his 21-minute original "Bells" with his quintet (trumpeter Donald Ayler, altoist Charles Tyler, bassist Lewis Worrell, and drummer Sonny Murray); the results were released at the time as a one-sided LP by ESP. Prima Materia played a stretched-out rendition of "Bells" 31 years later; the adventurous quintet's version was three times longer than Ayler's original. The band (heard live at the Knitting Factory) retained all of the themes and, while not copying any of the original solos, brought back the spirit of the earlier recording. Comprised of drummer Rashied Ali (an important survivor from the 1960s fortunately still in prime form), a pair of fiery saxophonists (co-leaders Louie Belogenis on tenor and altoist Allan Chase), the percussive pianist Greg Murphy, and bassist Joe Gallant, Prima Materia both salutes the past and builds on the earlier innovations. An extended Belogenis-Ali duet and the rambunctious interpretations of Ayler's march-like themes are highlights of this spirited performance, which is easily recommended to adventurous listeners.

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