DON AYLER IN FLORENCE 1981
1. The Bebop Tune (15:44)
2. The African Song (16:00)
1. Coltrane’s Blues (16:13)
2. The Indian Song (17:40)
1. The Eastern Song (17:16)
2. Peace (4:40)
3. Speech by Mr. Ayler (2:38)
4. encore: The Japanese Song (18:02)
(All compositions by Donald Ayler)
Don Ayler (trumpet)
Abdul Rahim Mustafa (reeds)
Frank Doblekar (tenor sax)
Anthony “Tony” Smith (piano)
John Davis (guitar)
Richard “Radu” Williams (bass)
Jerry Griffin (percussion)
July 18, 1981
Theatre Andromeda, Florence, Italy
Released as Don Ayler In Florence 1981 Vol. 1, Frame (Italy) RF-2001. Vol. 2, Frame RF-2002.
Vol. 3, Frame RF-2003.
“It is not at all strange to see in Jazz lesser known musicians who, even if they have a decisive voice in groups or schools of great importance, find their own road continuously blocked by the all pervading influence of top-class musicians and therefore they are inclined to take the expressive idea and the same artistry, transforming both into their own individual voice.
The case of Don Ayler, a musician from Cleveland, is a typical example. Don was born Oct. 5, 1942, brother and faithful partner of the famous Albert, with whom he collaborated from March '65 to February '68.
His formative years were conditioned and in a certain sense dominated by Albert, so that he even changed his first instrument, alto sax, into cornet, and finally trumpet. But the influence went beyond the choice of the instrument; the innovative power and the strong expressive voice of Albert transformed completely the psychic and emotive personality of Don.
When Albert died under mysterious circumstances Don was silent for many years, and only very recently his painful and emotional voice is heard again. This voice gives sound to the authentic and original music of Don Ayler, lyrical and with the full authority of a jazz-tradition, firmly anchored in the styles of a Roy Eldridge or a Frankie Newton, wedging itself into the bop and post-bop era of a Dizzie Gillespie or a Clifford Brown. In Don we can always feel the presence of the old traditions; whereas Albert expresses himself in an angry shout, Don turns towards a subtle, melancholy gasp, often motivated more by feeling than by formal technique. The drama lived by Don in his music has no longer the tragical connotation of the free jazz of the sixties. His approach is a more personal emotion whose drama results from bad experiences in life, without probing for the cosmic and omnipresent expansion that sought expression in his brother's music.
Don Ayler expresses in a smaller and more personal world his painful and suffering notes, insinuating with deep feeling the soundtrack of the problems of life, that are the problems of a man segregated in a ghetto where he represents the loser and not the winner. Hence also the need for a solid anchorage to the common origins and backgrounds, the primeval need to find oneself back in history, even in a ghetto, and not an outcast even there. Accepting this reality costs pain and suffering, but substitutes the desperate cry of free jazz with a feeling of hope, however weak.
The music presented here was recorded in Florence, Italy, on July 18, 1981. We find Don Ayler active after a prolonged period of silence because of personal problems, a silence that lasted for twelve years, interrupted only by sporadic appearances in the Cleveland area. It should be noted that up to now no record has ever been published under his name; this record therefore is the discographical debut of a famous and well-trained musician, who however lost contact with the recent and not so recent jazz expressions. The free of Don Ayler and his six musicians who surround him in this performance in Florence is like a veil covering the genuine and substantial black expression found in that great melting pot that is to-days Great Black Music. It is hard to label music, but the musicians themselves give the answers on this record: an emotive and emotional climax, where they enter in polemics with those musical forms that are too lucidly cerebral, forms that are victims of their own cold and suicidal introversion.
Brother Albert followed a vastly different musical path, and vastly different are also the most recent jazz-expressions, but of Don Ayler we can state without fear of contradiction that he is the echo of a sound that never existed, a sound risen from deep oblivion...
DONALD AYLER: Interview taken by Gianfranco CASCELLA. Transcribed by Francesco MAINO. Florence, Italy, July 24, 1981.
CASCELLA: We know about your life in the period when you played with your brother Albert, from 1965 to 1968, a span of four years. How was your life before then, and how has it been since then?
AYLER: My father and my brother used to play in the church. My father played the violin and the tenor sax, professionally, and my brother played the alto. We would go to church: my father would have us dressed up every Sunday to go to church and to Sunday school, and after I would go to the theatre, to the show, moving picture, but we would be in church most of time. Back when I was about sixteen I started out on the alto, then, my brother was playing the alto, and my father said that's enough alto in the house, so I picked up the trumpet: I had a natural ability to learn it, I had a natural ability on the trumpet, so next thing I know I was playing the trumpet and I practiced for three months, nine hours a day.
C.: When did you begin playing professionally?
A.: Well, we got together both me and my brother. I had saved up enough money and I went to Sweden in 1964, I went to Stockholm and I stayed in Stockholm for two and half, three months. I hitchiked to the North Pole, and to Yuk Muck Rock, yeah... We come up to New York in 1965, and at the same time we practiced two hours a day. It was very rough there, life was very tough, I mean, I suffered from malnutrition: one time we played a job, five dollars for six hours. The first thing I ever did was the one with John Coltrane: "NEW WAVE IN JAZZ", you remember that, that was the first one. The second was "BELLS" at Town Hall, we recorded for Bernard Stollman at Town Hall, a one-side, I guess you could say, hit, "BELLS", and then in the Fall of the year we did "SPIRITS REJOICE" and it was a nice recording, pretty fair I guess you can say. After that I got in contact with John Coltrane: talked with him on the New Year, 1966, and he helped set up a recording date for me and my brother, that was the album "LIVE IN GREENWICH VILLAGE", at the Village Vanguard and the Village Gate, yeah... After that we went to Europe, in November of 1966 and we recorded and played on TV all over Europe, and then we came back, and John Coltrane helped us get together, like...
C.: Was your brother together with you and John Coltrane?
A.: Oh, we played the thing... February 1966. We played "MY FAVOURITE THINGS", we all played, you know, they booed us because they were not ready for the music at that time, they booed us, you know. This was recorded in Czekoslovakia, yeah, yeah, then from that period on, 1967, we did another recording, I'm not sure if it is 1968, it is 1968, the name of the record was "LOVE CRY", yeah, we played "LOVE CRY".
C.: Did you compose or arrange any tune for "LOVE CRY"?
A.: No, "LOVE CRY" is all by Albert...
C.: Did you compose or arrange any other tune? Possibly "JESUS".
A.: No, my tune was "OUR PRAYER", that was my recording, my composition too. "LOVE CRY" is all by Albert. During a period when I came back from Europe in 1964 I came over the ideas of "OUR PRAYER", that was first, and then "THE TRUTH IS MARCHING IN" came later. They wrote in the album that "THE TRUTH IS MARCHING IN" was first, but "OUR PRAYER" was first.
C.: How do you feel about the mysticism of your brother? About his interest in God, in the church, in the spirit? Do you agree with his ideas?
A.: Oh, basically we had... we were brothers so we have a lot of ideas that was close to each other, you know...
C.: You were with your brother at the funeral of John Coltrane. What do you remember about that? How many people were there, thousands of people? Black, white?
A.: At the funeral I was present, right, everyone was there, yes, I mean, not only musicians, but people from all lots of life, all colors from all nations, because people understood what John Coltrane stood for. I remember seeing Stockeley Carmichael, Rapp Brown... Yes, I remember, my brother and Ornette Coleman were supposed to play, and we played at funeral in St. Peter's Church. I think that everybody cried when they heard that he had died, you know, and I cried when I heard about it, I cried when I heard that he had died, but after a while I realized you couldn't bring him back in the world, so, you know, I just played the best I could, I think I played some of the best music of my life at old John's funeral, yeah, the music was recorded, we heard it, very spiritual music, very spiritual.
C.: There are so many different versions about the terrible death of your brother. Can you tell us something about it? How did you learn that your brother was dead?
A.: I was not in New York at the time, I was in Cleveland. We found out about it in Cleveland. They said that they had his body in the morgue, so my father, my mother and me, we went up there and we claimed the body.
C.: But what did the police have to say about it?
A.: They say it is mysterious, and that's all they can say... yes, it is hardly impossible... no, nothing, nothing...
C.: After the death of your brother you seem to have stopped playing for about ten years. What was your experience of the music since then?
A.: I didn't play for about two and half years. Then Mustafa and Al Rollins got me interested in playing again...
C.: Who is Al Rollins, a relative of Sonny Rollins?
A.: No, he is a guy in Cleveland who plays tenor, he is not a relative of Sonny... he is not with us now, he didn't come over to Europe because I didn't feel he was ready. At the beginning I would be just practicing, me and Mustafa and Al Rollins, we practiced every Tuesday, we were doing the same songs that we are doing now, and that's the reason why Mustafa knows most of the songs that we are playing now, because we have practiced for years. In the last four years I played the Cleveland State and I played the Peabody's Cafe, and I played another bar where I have been working, work this space, several times. During the period that we were practicing together, Mustafa and Al, I played with Tony Smith... Tony came to town and we played together during that period of time...
C.: Where was that, just around Cleveland, or elsewhere in the States, New York, California?
A.: Well, right now my mother had a stroke, and I am trying to be around to give her support, yeah, and without that, I'll try and move my base probably up to New York, you know...
C.: Are you happy with your present group?
A.: Well, I think that all we need to do is to get more work, that is all we need, just more work...
C.: Of the tunes you play, which is the one you prefer?A.: I like "CHANGES COME", where I go up on the trumpet, real high, yeah.
C.: Do you feel you are still in the jazz scene? Do people remember your name, ask you for interviews and the like?
A.: Oh, I made one interview with, the one that, what's his name, let's see, what is the name of that... CADENCE, yes, it is Bob Rusch, yeah.
C.: What are your plans for the future?
A.: I hope to come back in the Fall of the year and travel all around Europe, and do festivals, club dates and everything. I Plan to go to Paris, Stockholm, Germany, Finland, Copenhagen, Denmark, and, let me see, maybe England.
C.: We all wish you good luck.”