Holy Ghost is the first extended study of free jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler, who is seen today as one of the most important innovators in the history of jazz.
Ayler synthesized children’s songs, La Marseillaise, American march music, and gospel hymns, turning them into powerful, rambunctious, squalling free-jazz improvisations. Some critics considered him a charlatan, others a heretic for unhinging the traditions of jazz. Some simply considered him insane. However, like most geniuses, Ayler was misunderstood in his time. His divine messages of peace and love, apocalyptic visions of flying saucers, and the strange account of the days leading up to his being found floating in New York’s East River are central to his mystique, but, as Koloda points out, they are a distraction, overshadowing his profound impact on the direction of jazz as one of the most visible avant-garde players of the 1960s and a major influence on others, including John Coltrane.
A musicologist and friend of Don Ayler, Albert’s troubled trumpet-playing brother, Richard Koloda has spent over two decades researching this book. He follows Ayler from his beginnings in his native Cleveland to France, where he received his greatest acclaim, to his untimely death on November 25, 1970, at age thirty-four, and puts to rest speculation concerning his mysterious death.
A feat of biography and a major addition to jazz scholarship, Holy Ghost offers a new appreciation of one of the most important and controversial figures in twentieth-century music.