Donald Ayler Heads For The Great Gig In The Sky, Dead At 65

Respected free-jazz trumpeter Donald Ayler died October 24 of a heart attack. The 65-year old was the brother of alto/tenor saxophonist impresario Albert, the subject of the recent documentary My Name Is Albert Ayler, which opened in Athens, Austin, Cleveland, and Winnipeg this week and is slated for DVD release sometime next year. Don Ayler performed regularly with his wily older brother and appeared on such releases as Bells (Calibre), In Greenwich Village (Impulse!), and the essential Spirits Rejoice (ESP-Disk). Don was an essential cog of his brother's group from 1965-1968 and also performed in a group with John Coltrane in 1966.

Albert's mysterious death in 1970 forced Don out of the spotlight and he popped up occasionally for features and interviews but nothing substantial. A 1981 recording from a Florence gig with a septet does exist but has been out-of-print for several years. A couple of Don's compositions were included with Albert's die-hards-only 2004 Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings 1962-1970 box set.

[Photo: Larry Fink/ICA]

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