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Mars Williams presents: An Ayler Xmas

Mars Williams presents: An Ayler Xmas

The music of Albert Ayler & songs of Christmas

Saturday, December 9th at 8:00pm

For many years Witches & Devils, the long-running Albert Ayler tribute band led by saxophonist Mars Williams, have existed mostly as an excuse to get together and perform an annual Chicago holiday concert. 

For these memorable concerts, Willams merges a variety of Christmas songs with the indelible repertoire of free-jazz titan Ayler, who brought a scalding intensity to tunes rooted in gospel and spirituals.

It may sound silly, but the performances are no joke, and they produce a seriously joyful noise. The band tackles warhorses like “O Tannenbaum” and “12 Days of Christmas” in the same smoldering fashion as their take on Ayler: the rhythm section bubbles and generates a kind of levitating intensity during the wonderfully expressive, multilinear theme statements, while the horns state familiar melodies in loose cries and the embellished lines of each player pull apart and coalesce in a naturalistic frenzy.

Williams designs clever medleys that appropriate the pulse and feel of particular Ayler tunes as the band rips through a greatest-hits lineup of holiday tracks.
— Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

For the last two of years, along with the annual Chicago performances, Williams experimented by performing “An Ayler Xmas” in New Orleans, using local musicians. The performances were incredibly successful!

This year, featuring local improvisers from each host city, Williams expands his project by bringing it to select cities in Europe & the US. 

Dec. 1  – Hollyoke, MA
Dec. 4  – NYC
Dec. 9  – New Orleans
Dec.10 – Chicago
Dec.15 – Vienna
Dec.16 – Wells, Austria
Dec.17 – TBA (Salzburg or Paris or Antwerp) 
Dec.23 – Amsterdam


With his strong history of collaborations with NOLA musicians, Williams chose New Orleans in 2015, to be the first city (outside of Chicago), to host “An Ayler Xmas”.

The NOLA lineup for the December 9th performance at The Mint will feature: 

Mars Williams - Sax
Jeff Albert – Trombone
Helen M Gillet - Cello & Electronics
Paul Thibodeaux – Drums
Jesse Morrow - Bass
Rob Cambre - Guitar

Earlier Event: December 5
Jazz Pilates
Later Event: December 10
Priya Kambli Presentation