Kasper Collin's haunting documentary recalls the brief life and times of the black saxophone pioneer Albert Ayler, whose free-jazz blowing during the 1960s was revered by aficionados all the way from his native Cleveland to the jazz clubs of Sweden.
Ayler called himself "the holy ghost", and the sound he made was indeed unearthly, at its worst pitched somewhere between a foghorn and a whoopee cushion, at its best a strangely beautiful compound of gospel lament and street-march blues. John Coltrane was a fan, and left a request that Ayler and Ornette Coleman play at his funeral.
The film pieces together old cine footage, interviews with friends and family (including his younger brother and trumpeter, Donald) and a recurring shot of Ayler silently staring into the camera, a look that becomes troubling in the light of his premature end: he drowned himself in New York's East River in November 1970, for reasons unknown.
Most moving of all is the sight of Ayler's father searching for his son's grave in a Cleveland cemetery, and eventually finding it, half-buried under leaves. This short, beguiling film offers him a memorial one hopes will be better cherished.Reuse content