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Ayler, Albert

band playing cleveland ayler’s

Ayler, Albert, free-jazz tenor saxophonist; b. Cleveland, Ohio, July 13, 1936; d. Nov. 25, 1970. Ayler’s unique approach generally began with a simple theme played with a wide vibrato, followed by a free improvisation based on a total exploration of the speech-like screaming sounds possible on the saxophone. Highly controversial, he was greatly admired by John Coltrane, who would listen and learn from his recordings and once performed with him. On some of his later albums, Ayler astonished his following by incorporating his early blues influences with the current rock styles. Ayler began playing the alto saxophone in his father’s band, then took up the tenor sax and, as a teenager in high school, played around Cleveland with R&B bands and toured with blues artist Little Walter. He spent some time in Calif., married, then entered the army in 1958 as a musician. After band and military training at Fort Knox, Ky, in March 1959 he was sent with a band to Europe, then in April 1961 was transferred to a band at Fort Ord, Calif. Discharged from the army in 1961, Ayler worked first in Scandinavia (playing standard songs on his first recordings), then in N.Y. He formed his first compatible band in 1964 with Don Cherry, Gary Peacock, and Sunny Murray, recording and playing infrequently. Ayler appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in early July 1966. Coltrane brought Ayler to play with him at Lincoln Center in N.Y. on Feb. 19, 1966, and it was almost certainly Coltrane who encouraged Impulse Records to record Ayler beginning in December 1966. Ayler toured Europe in 1964, 1966, and 1970. On his last records he took to singing, playing bagpipes, and adding rock musicians and soul singers to his band. One of these vocalists was his companion, Mary Parks (aka Mary Maria), who seemed to dominate his last few efforts. After missing for 20 days, Ayler’s body was found in the East River off of Manhattan on Nov. 25, 1970; the research of Peter Wilson shows that his death was almost certainly a suicide. Ayler’s brother, Donald (b. Cleveland, Ohio, Oct. 5, 1942), was a trumpeter in the Cleveland area, but has been mostly inactive since his brother’s death.


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