Albert Ayler – Jazz Artist by Bill Anderson, (2008)
Albert Ayler expanded the expressive possibilities of jazz saxophone and helped to develop the free jazz of the 1960s. Born in Cleveland, he carried his music first to Europe and then to New York City bringing the ecstasy of gospel music into jazz. He worked with Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, and Sonny Rollins; his own groups included his brother Donald, Gary Peacock, Sunny Murray, Charles Tyler, and Ronald Shannon Jackson. He influenced his contemporaries like Rollins, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, and Pharoah Sanders, and is an influence today on younger players including David Murray, Peter Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark, and Mats Gustafsson.
Born in Cleveland on July 13, 1936 Albert Ayler studied with his father Edward, and Cleveland saxophonist Benny Miller. In his teens he played with rhythm & blues bands touring with Little Walter. Joining the army in 1956 he ended up in Europe where he played in Paris from 1959 to 1961 playing jam sessions with Don Byas, Dexter Gordon and in Stockholm and Copenhagen in 1962 working with the Cecil Taylor Trio. In 1963 he moved to New York City releasing his first free-jazz album Spirits in 1964 followed by Spiritual Unity with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray. Others followed in a similar style.
Ayler's music used the extreme register of the tenor saxophone to play improvisations based on folk-like melodies with strong spiritual overtones. His unique music was controversial and difficult for some. He often said he was more interested in the "sounds" than other musical elements. In the later 1960s he turned to a more rhythm and blues style, but his last recordings in Europe in 1970 returned to the free-jazz style. His body was found in the East River in NYC in November 1970.
Revenant Records released the CD box set Holy Ghost in 2004 to great critical acclaim. In 2005 the film My Name Is Albert Ayler, made in Sweden by Kasper Collin, was released. It was shown at the Cleveland Cinematheque in 2007.
Ayler, Albert. Holy Ghost: Rare and Unissued Recordings. Revenant, 2004. [Ref ML419.A98 H65 2004]
Jost, Ekkehard. Free Jazz. Da Capo, 1974, 1981. [ML3506 .J67 1981]
Kahn, Ashley. The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records. Norton, 2006. [ML3792 .K34 2006]
Litweiler, John. The Freedom Principle: Jazz after 1958. Da Capo, 1984, 1990. [ML3506 .L57 1990]
Wilmer, Valerie. As Serious as Your Life: John Coltrane and Beyond. rev. ed. Serpent's Tail, 1977, 1992. [ML3508 .W55 1992]
Remembering Bill Anderson at Cleveland Public Library - 1995-2011
Cleveland had its own jazz and blues music historian, his name is Bill Anderson, aka “Walking Dr. Bill”.
Bill joined music legends he admired on April 9, 2014. We wanted to recognize his contributions during Jazz Month this April – how apropos.
In 1989, Bill Anderson decided to go back to graduate school to obtain a Library Science degree from Kent State University. After graduation, he worked for the Columbus Public Library system. He began his career at the Cleveland Public Library in 1995 working in the AV Department and was known for building the foreign film and audio book collection.
By 2001, Bill moved on to become the Senior Assistant Librarian for the Fine Arts & Special Collections Department of the Cleveland Public Library. He was the main selector for the music book collection, music scores, and the listening collection. Bill helped to build one of the finest music CD collections of jazz, blues, and R&B held in a public library. His knowledge of Cleveland’s jazz & blues scene was incredible and he was often consulted with by researchers across the nation. He continued to deejay at night on WRUW – 91.1 FM with radio shows called “Bird Calls” and “Dr. Bill’s R&B Survey”. Bill would write Collection Highlights blogs about the music collection – Albert Ayler was one of his favorites (done in 2008).
By 2011, Bill decided he wanted to do other things in life and made the decision to retire. He wanted to spend more time travelling, visiting family, and enjoying his music. He continued to deejay music radio shows and volunteered at the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives.
We will all miss Dr. Bill but will always remember his love for the Cleveland music scene.
Peace to our friend.