Bright Moments

Ayler's death

16 posts in this topic

At age 34 Albert Ayler's body washed up from Manhattan's East river.

Did he drown? :ph34r:

Was there foul play? :ph34r:

Was he in with the wrong crowd & did this have anything to do with his bassist (henry grimes') dissappearance from jazz? :alien:

has this mystery ever been solved? :huh:

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I don't think the mystery has ever been solved, but after a quick online search I found one interesting version of the story. Believe what you wish...I'm sure there are many other versions of this sad story.

Source: Jazzed in Cleveland Part 39 a jazz history by Joe Mosbrook

URL: http://www.cleveland.oh.us/wmv_news/jazz39.htm

[Cited text begins at the half way point of article]

On November 25, 1970, Albert Ayler’s body was pulled from the East River in New York City.

Over the years there have been a variety of theories about how Ayler died. Some said he was shot by the police. Others said he was killed by the FBI in a plot to suppress black culture. Still others said he had been killed by the Mafia with his body tied to a jukebox. In an article in the November 23, 1997 Cleveland Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine, writer Michael Drexler wrote, "Most people who knew him say he was murdered over mounting drug debts."

But, Ayler’s father, Edward Ayler, told Drexler that he could not accept the theory that his son was killed over drugs. According to the elder Ayler, "He may have smoked a little reefer, but nothing hard."

Ayler’s brother, Don, has said that some of Albert sidemen told him marijuana was smoked during some of their shows, however, he said, "Albert’s substance intake almost certainly never included addictive drugs such as heroin or cocaine."

Albert, before his death, said, "Since we are the music we play, our way of life has to be clean or else the music can’t be kept pure." Ayler added, "I couldn’t use a man hung up with drugs. Fortunately, I’ve never had that problem."

Mary Parks told her version of the death of Albert Ayler to English discographer Mike Hames in 1983. She said, "The strains of surviving as a musician in New York seriously affected the mind of Albert’s brother, Donald. Their mother (Myrtle Ayler) blamed Albert for introducing Donald to the musician’s life and continually pressed Albert to look after Donald."

"Albert helped in several ways," added Parks, "but he did not want Donald to live with him or play with him. After two years of aggravation from his brother and demands and threats from his mother, Albert, she said, could no longer cope."

According to the English discographer, Mary Parks said Albert told her "his blood had to be shed to save his mother and brother." Thinking very seriously about death at the age of 34, Ayler even outlined how he wanted the rights to his music divided after he was gone.

The night he disappeared, Ayler again told his lover, "My blood has got to be shed to save my mother and my brother." He smashed one of his saxophones over their television set and stormed out of the house. Mary called the police to report Albert missing.

According to Hames, she said Albert took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and jumped off as the boat neared Liberty Island -- committing suicide.

Ten days after his lifeless body was found in the river, there was a burial service at the chapel of Cleveland’s Highland Park Cemetery. Fifty-five people attended, mostly family members.

Donald Ayler, who had suffered a breakdown earlier, was deeply shaken by his brother’s death.

For years, Ayler’s father, Edward, frequently played golf at Highland Park Golf Course near his Warrensville Heights home. On the 11th hole of the Red Course, near the cemetery, where there is a simple headstone that says, "Albert Ayler, 1936-1970, the elder Ayler usually pauses to shake his head and remember the tragedy of his older son, the jazz musician many around the world still call "a genius." Edward Ayler tries to make some sense of what happened to his son.

Edited by alejo

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I've read that story Alejo just served up. It sort of resonates with me as being very possible knowing the little that I know about the Ayler brothers.

But no one really seems to be certain other than Maria Parks. . . .

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The Mary Parks story does ring true to me. I can see him smashing his horn over the TV set. That's the image that stays with me. I think there's a truth in it.

No matter what the precise details of Albert's motivation.

Simon Weil

Edited by Simon Weil

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I can go with that story too. Call it a type of Messianic Complex if you want. But it also goes towards the "divided soul" mentality (the title of David Ritz' excellent Marvin Gaye bio, btw), the conflict betweent the world of the flesh and the world of the spirit that permeates, or used to permeate, a lot more of African American musical culture than one might suspect. I've seen it in action locally, actually, and for those of us who don't see the need for such a divide, the power of the conflict seems almost perverse in its strength. But it is very real.

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There have been all kind of rumors about Albert Ayler's death. I never really believed in those. The Joe Mosbrook story sums up quite well what must have happened. I know that Albert Ayler was always concerned about his responsibilites toward his brother Donald who was 'different' (for lack of a more accurate word).

The burden - and other problems - must have been unbearable at some point.

A tragedy, in any case.

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My question would be: if he jumped out near Liberty Island, how did his body get up to the East River against the flow of the river?

I suppose the tide might have pushed it up, but it doesn't seem too likely.

Map of NY Harbor here

--eric

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I read in the Music Hound Essential Album Guide that Ayler commited suicide. However it happened it's a terribly sad story.

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http://www.math.ucdavis.edu/~mawillia/ayler.html

There's also been some information regarding Ayler's mental health (see article) that may have played into his seriously considering self sacrifice for the benefit of his family. People who saw him in the weeks before his death wearing vasaline all over his hands and other things.

As for the ocean, who knows. Spaulding Gray?

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Anyone here seen the documentary? Looking forward to owning the DVD.

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I saw the documentary and attended a Q&A session with the filmmaker. It was quite good.

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Anyone here seen the documentary? Looking forward to owning the DVD.

Yep, I've seen it. Most definitely worth checking out. I'm not a particular fan of Ayler but the power ofd his music and commitment comes through loud and clear. A well made documentary, sympathetically done.

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Ironically, when I saw the title of this thread I just happened drive by the cemetary where Ayler's buried at the other day.

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