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Albert Ayler

Cleveland, 1950s-1970

The most famous jazz musician to come from Cleveland was Albert Ayler, who in his short career managed to create unique recordings that defied conventional ideas about jazz, even in a time when the music having a creative explosion. 

He was born and raised in Cleveland, playing in church and clubs, guided by his sax playing father. He graduated from John Adams HS and studied at Cleveland's Academy of Music. He joined the Army and played in the local band. In the early 60s, after his Army time was up, he returned to Cleveland but his radically different style didn't fit and he ended up moving to Sweden, and later, New York City.

His time in Sweden was spent mostly playing with fellow avant artist Cecil Taylor. When he moved to NYC, he started leading his own recording group and they found a home on the legendary ESP' Disk label, issuing a rapid succession of studio and live recordings that were the foundation for his legend. He moved to Impulse records, where after a couple LPs he made a style switch that brought in elements of funk and R&B. This change of style - mainly on the "New Grass" LP - alienated his fan base. His last LP had him returning to more free jazz. 

Ayler commited suicide in 1970, his body discovered in the East River. The similarity to numerous mob killings, real and fictional, has led to speculation he was 'bumped off' but all evidence says suicide. 

He is buried in Cleveland's Highland Park cemetary.

His younger brother Donald Ayler played trumpet on some of Albert's mid 60s recordings.

In general , jazz musicians are not listed on Buckeye Beat. In Albert's case, his influences went way beyond jazz and have had a major impact on avant rock, and a some of Cleveland musicians from the avant rock scene of the 70s mentioned him as an influence. He is also referenced (along with Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Alan Freed, etc) as a pop culture icon of the old, great Cleveland.