“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, Williams 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.”
— Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
“Whatever the situation, Mars plays exciting music. In many ways he has succeeded in redefining what versatility means to the modern saxophone player.”
— John Zorn
Grammy-nominated saxophonist, composer and bandleader Mars Williams presents An Ayler Xmas — The Music of Albert Ayler & Songs of Christmas on Saturday, December 2 at 8 PM at Atlas Studios, located at 11 Spring Street in Newburgh, NY. This concert will be a co-production of Elysium Furnace Works in collaboration with Jazz at Atlas. General admission will be $20 at the door. Ample onsite parking is available.
For the last two of years, along with the annual Chicago performances, Williams has experimented by performing “An Ayler Xmas” in New Orleans, using local musicians. Building on their success this year, Williams expands his project by bringing it to select cities in the US and Europe featuring local improvisers from each host city. The tour will include the following citiies:
Dec. 1 – Holyoke, MA
Dec. 2 – Newburgh, NY
Dec. 4 – New York
Dec. 8 – New Orleans
Dec.10 – Chicago
Dec.15 – Vienna
Dec.16 – Wells, Austria
Dec.17 – Paris
Dec.20 – Antwerp
Dec.23 – Amsterdam
For the Newburgh performance, the musicians performing will include:
Mars Williams – Saxophones, Toy Instruments
Joe McPhee – Trumpets, Saxophones
Joe Morris – Guitar
Hilliard Greene – Bass
Chris Corsano – Drums
Mars Williams is an open-minded musician, composer and educator who commutes easily between free jazz, funk, hip-hop and rock, Mars has played and recorded with The Psychedelic Furs, Billy Idol, Massacre, Fred Frith, Bill Laswell, Ministry, Power Station, Die Warzau, The Waitresses, Kiki Dee, Pete Cosey, Billy Squier, DJ Logic, Wayne Kramer, John Scofield, Charlie Hunter, Kurt Elling, Swollen Monkeys, Mike Clark, Jerry Garcia, Naked Raygun, Friendly Fires, The Untouchables, Blow Monkeys and virtually every leading figure of Chicago’s and New York City’s “downtown” scene.
John Zorn credits Mars as “one of the true saxophone players–someone who takes pleasure in the sheer act of blowing the horn. This tremendous enthusiasm is an essential part of his sound, and it comes through each note every time he plays. Whatever the situation, Mars plays exciting music. In many ways he has succeeded in redefining what versatility means to the modern saxophone player.”
In 2001 Mars received a Grammy Nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Record with his group Liquid Soul.
Despite his busy touring schedule with Liquid Soul and The Psychedelic Furs, Mars manages to stay active on the Chicago underground improvising scene. In recent years he has toured and recorded with the Peter Brötzmann Tentet, Switchback, Full Blast, Scorch Trio, the Vandermark 5, Boneshaker, Chicago Reed Quartet and Cinghiale, teaming him with such musicians as Ken Vandermark, Hamid Drake, Michael Zerang, William Parker, Ikue Mori, Kent Kessler, Fredric Lonberg Holm, Peter Brotzmann, Joe McPhee, Paal Nilssen-Love, Ab Baars, Mike Reed, Jeb Bishop, Harrison Bankhead, Dave Rempis, Kidd Jordan and Matts Gustafson.
He performs weekly in Chicago along with Jim Baker, Steve Hunt, and Brian Sandstrom in the improvising quartet “Extraordinary Popular Delusions”. As a bandleader, he continues to perform and record CDs with his own free-jazz groups, the NRG Ensemble, Witches & Devils, Slam, XmarsX, Mars Trio, Boneshaker and The Soul Sonic Sirkus which features improvising musicians and aerial circus performers. Along with Die Warsau’s Van Christie, Mars has started Ratking Music, a production company focusing on music for film and television.
In addition to performing and creating music, Mars has been an educator in the field of woodwinds and jazz improvisation for over thirty years. Mars held the position of Woodwind Instructor at Bard College for two years. In the last few years Mars has presented Master classes and clinics to a number of private and public institutions including, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the University of Chicago, Roosevelt University (Chicago, IL), and June Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art (Auburn, AL).
Elysium Furnace Works is a cooperative project co-led by Mike Faloon, James Keepnews and Steve Ventura. Elysium Furnace Works seeks to present the work of vanguard artists in settings as dedicated and uncompromising as the art itself, focusing primarily although not exclusively on live music performances in and around Beacon, NY.
Jazz at Atlas is a cooperative effort of writer, musician and multimedia artist James Keepnews; and music researcher, radio host and producer Ben Young. Along with presenting performances by world-renowned creative musicians, JAA will also be offering listening sessions, dialogues with artists and classes covering the entire spectrum of creative music in all its varied manifestations around the world and throughout its history.