Few record labels have been as committed to preserving and championing the legacy of saxophonist and musical visionary Albert Ayler as the Swiss label Hatology (née Hat Hut). Since releasing a stunning live recording Lörrach/Paris1966 back in 1982—a collection of live material cut in the title cities, when the saxophonist was leading a remarkable lineup featuring his brother Donald on trumpet, violinist Michael Sampson, drummer Beaver Harris, and bassist William Folwell—the imprint has repeatedly issued various live and radio recordings Ayler made during his few European tours. Sometimes, as with last year's European Radio Studio Recordings 1964, Hatology has polished and produced legitimate, properly licensed reissues of previously manufactured, occasionally dodgy releases.
Prior to the new Copenhagen Live 1964 the music was put out on the Swedish imprint Ayler Records—a sprawling label that was obviously inspired by the saxophonist—but that release, which included some of the radio sessions now available on last year's Hatology title, has long been out of print. The recordings were made at the legendary Club Montmartre with one of Ayler's best bands—drummer Sunny Murray, bassist Gary Peacock, and cornetist Don Cherry, who'd joined the group just before that fall 1964 tour. Cherry added a new dimension to the already locked-in trio, which was fresh from recording the massively important Spiritual Unity LP, released the following year by ESP-Disk. The Denmark performances are supercharged, with Cherry's more-playful lines offering a remarkable foil to Ayler's intensely spiritual, probing, upper-register tenor explorations.
Two years earlier Ayler had been working in Europe, pairing up with straight-ahead backing bands who struggled with his style—it was all grossly misunderstood by fellow musicians, critics, and listeners. But Ayler then found his groove and a group that understood his searching sound, one that tapped into church music and R&B but transformed those influences into a powerful, deeply original attack wherein he sought a higher power, using his body and soul as a kind of cipher. Still, his approach often alienated most jazz fans, who were unprepared for the sort of raw energy and group interplay Ayler's combo exhibits on Copenhagen Live 1964. Below you can hear the quartet perform "Mothers," with its clear overtones of the spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child."