Miles Ahead

The Biblical proverb that a prophet is without honor in his own home goes a ways toward explaining why the young saxophonist Albert Ayler split for Sweden in the early 1960s. Stockholm was a whole lot freer than Ayler's native Cleveland, yet audiences proved to be only slightly more accepting of his dissonant, full-throttle style of play. An early proponent of free jazz, Ayler rejected melody and tempo in favor of feel. He was uncompromising, like so many pioneers, to the point of destruction. Swedish director Kasper Collin's invaluable and elegiac documentary, My Name is Albert Ayler, suggests that the path-breaking sax man found his voice in the Land of the Midnight Sun, but could only make his mark in the Big Apple. Ayler bonded with Coltrane in New York (ultimately playing at his funeral), made records that divided critics and jazz fans, and in 1970 mysteriously drowned himself in the East River at age 34. Collin, who will be present at all screenings, has crafted an inspiring, heartrending, and mysterious saga of artistic integrity and familial loyalty. Above all, it is the quintessential portrait of an artist who was ahead of his time -- and knew it.
Sun., March 23, 2, 4, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m., 2008

 
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