Mars Williams

Mars Williams Presents An Ayler Xmas vol. 2

A product of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians who studied with AACM founders Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, saxophonist Mars 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.

Track list/times:

1. Xmas Medley

2. O Tannenbaum/Spirits/12 Days of Christmas

3. Love Cry/Christmas Wrapping

4. Carol of the Drum/Bells/O Come Emanuel/Joy to the World

5. Universal Indians/We Wish You a Merry Xmas


Album Credits:

Tracks 1, 3, 4 recorded live at The Hungry Brain, Chicago, U.S.A. with Witches & Devils, consisting of: Mars Williams, saxes, toy instruments; Josh Berman, cornet; Fred Lonberg-Holm, cello; Jim Baker, piano, ARP synthesizer, viola; Kent Kessler, bass; Brian Sandstrom, bass, guitar, trumpet; Steve Hunt, drums, percussion; Jeb Bishop, trombone (track 1 only)

Tracks 2, 5 recorded live at Porgy & Bess, Vienna, Austria with: Mars Williams, saxes, toy instruments; Thomas Berghammer, trumpet; Hermann Stangassinger, bass; Didi Kern, drums, percussion; Christof Kurzmann, lloopp, vocals

Press Quotes:

“There’s mirth in the sequencing of their medleys – one track on this CD veers from a steaming rendition of ‘Love Cry’ into The Waitresses’ ‘Christmas Wrapping’ – but the performances are ferocious. Williams leads the charge, summoning an appositely hyper-emotional range of shrieks and roars from his array of saxophones while Berman’s cornet raises the ghost of Donald Ayler and keyboardist Jim Baker evokes the spacy comping of Cal Cobbs. […] This album is probably a bit too rambunctious for most family gatherings, but its committed performances transcend novelty.” – Bill Meyer, The Wire

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


"Together, these seven musicians pop through the intertwined compositions with a swirling drive that constantly tumbles back and forth between fiercely played themes and elaborations and variations that are played with the sacred fire of fragments. A few minutes away in 'Ma'oz Tzur (Hanukkah) - Truth Is Marching In - Jingle Bells', the first of three medleys, and you'll already have a party to choose from that combines stateliness and restlessness eagerly on a stirring surface that constantly accelerates and decelerates, and threatens to burst at any moment. Williams tears and whitewashes with a whitewashed, insatiable urgency, Lonberg-Holm makes the cello vultures just as enthusiastically with effects and a passionate scraping bow." - Guy Peters, Enola


"The band’s performance style—which favors high-energy horn solos, spacey keyboard flourishes and rhythms that shift between march time, swing time and no time—nods toward the sound that Ayler projected with the ensembles he toured with during the last five years of his career." - Bill Meyer, Downbeat 

Musicians: Mars Williams

Digital download Choice of WAVs or MP3s
Compact Disk Digipak
  • Product Code: ESP5030
  • Availability: In Stock
  • CD $12.98
  • WAV Download $8.99
  • MP3 Download $8.99

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