Published November 2022
312pp with 8pp photo insert
6 x 8.5 in (150 x 215mm)
£14.95 UK / $24.95 US / $32.95 CAN
RICHARD KOLODA has a master’s degree in Musicology from Cleveland State University, having written a thesis on the piano music of Frederic Rzewski. He was a contributor to the critically acclaimed documentary My Name Is Albert Ayler by Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collin and a consultant on Revenant Records’ ten-CD retrospective of Ayler, Holy Ghost: Rare And Unissued Recordings (1962–70), which has been called ‘the Sistine Chapel of box sets.’ Richard lives in Wayland, Ohio, where he practices law. When he is not in court, he is working on his second book (not about music).
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 Donald Ayler, Albert’s troubled trumpet- playing brother, Richard Koloda has spent over two decades researching this book. He follows Albert 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 significant work of jazz scholarship, Holy Ghost offers a new appreciation of one of the most important and controversial figures in twentieth-century music.
Praise for this book
“Koloda’s deeply perceptive, revelatory, and vibrant biography confirms beyond a doubt Albert Ayler’s standing as a visionary in the jazz pantheon.” – Booklist (starred review)
“A meticulous and passionate critical biography of Albert Ayler.” – Richard Brody, The Millions
“A scrupulous and propulsive biography with a stated agenda: to clear up some of the myths and misperceptions surrounding one of jazz’s most mysterious major figures.” – Nate Chinen, WRTI
“An important new biography.” – Jazzwise
“As passionately written as one of Ayler’s solos.” – Jazz Weekly
“One part music bio, another part detective thriller.” – Downbeat
“Adds a great deal to Ayler scholarship, and to the history of avant-garde jazz in general.” – The Wire
“An engaging biography worthy of the fascinating musician at its heart.” – New York City Jazz Record
“An engaging and long-overdue biography of one of jazz’s most divisive innovators.“ – All About Jazz
“The care and seriousness with which [Koloda] has approached this biography means that it will repay reading and provides a useful and comprehensive reference work.” – International Times
“An important book that comes at a time when many listeners and critics are rediscovering Ayler’s work. It combines analysis of the recordings and descriptions of Ayler’s short life very effectively, and makes one keen to return to listen to his music.” – London Jazz News
“The extraordinary life of trailblazing saxophonist Albert Ayler, who remains an important influence among jazz and experimental musicians long after his death, is explored in an important new biography.” – Jazz Music Archives
“This book traces everything jazz folks need to know about Ayler and a bit more besides.” – Jazz Journal UK
“A compact yet comprehensive and impeccably researched biography. . . . Koloda has done a great service to both Ayler and every music lover with the curiosity to open up a pathway into this uniquely deep and spiritual canon of jazz.” – NYS Music
“The facts of Ayler’s life have for years been hard to come by, and stories told about him are mythological, some even ghostly. Koloda’s book remarkably reconstructs Ayler’s life story and explores the controversy he created.” – John Szwed, author of So What: The Life Of Miles Davis
“Anyone who has gone to the crossroads with Robert Johnson or thrilled to the Wicked Pickett’s cross-grained scream can recognise and identify the vernacular voices inhabiting Ayler’s vision. Richard Koloda draws on archive material and fresh oral history to document aspects of an American family and the passage of an uncompromising artist who took no prisoners.” – Val Wilmer, author of As Serious As Your Life: Black Music And The Free Jazz Revolution, 1957–1977
“Reading like an action-packed novel, Koloda’s biography is definitive, colorful, and a major addition to the literature of American music and jazz.” – Scott Yanow, author of Jazz On Record 1917–1976