A product of the creative music movement started by organizations such as the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians & the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, saxophonist Mars Williams studied with AACM founders Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell.
Williams is most famous as a member of The Psychedelic Furs but has proven his jazz bona fides with Peter Brötzmann and Ken Vandermark and while guiding Liquid Soul and Hal Russell’s NRG Ensemble, to name just a few. His rock CV is also varied, including many years in Akron New Wave band The Waitresses and work with Billy Idol, Ministry, Massacre, and many more. He also leads the Albert Ayler tribute band Witches & Devils, and out of their holiday concerts grew a unique tradition.
One look at this album’s track titles and you’ll understand the concept here. One listen and you’ll hear that, as odd as that concept may seem, it’s brilliantly effective, with the disparate melodies working together in their common projection of joy and celebration. And it’s worth noting that Williams’s worlds collide on track 3 here, featuring The Waitresses’ biggest hit, “Christmas Wrapping.” Williams played on their original recording. After enjoying An Ayler Xmas vol. 1 last year, ESP invited him to make vol. 2 a co-release of Williams’s Soul What Records and ESP-Disk’, the top Ayler label. Mars will be supporting the release with both Witches & Devils’ annual Xmas show and tours in the U.S. and Europe using renowned local musicians. See the tour press release for specifics.
Mars Williams – Saxophones & Toy instruments
Jaimie Branch – trumpet
Knox Chandler – Guitar
Mark Tokar – Bass
Klaus Kugel – Drums
Press Quotes for 2017’s An Ayler Xmas:
“The album captures the band deftly underlining familiar themes from Christmas songs such as ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ as well as the Hanukkah classic ‘Ma’oz Tzur’ while melding them with the indelible, keening melodies of Ayler staples like ‘Spirits’ and ‘Truth Is Marching In’ in extended medleys. Each one is performed with bruising intensity, feverish interplay, and cathartic, sobbing spirituality as the group chases Ayler’s singular marriage of overloaded joy and gushing release—an approach that transcends any seasonal limitations.” – Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
“Ayler’s themes are as timeless and full of spirit as the holiday classics Williams has chosen and it is great to hear the latter used as vehicles for nor’easter-like improvisations. When the family starts fighting over the last piece of Christmas goose, put on this album and watch a startled peace settle over the relatives.” – Andrey Henkin, New York City Jazz Record