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Reclusive TrumpeterCopyright © 2007
Largely out of the spotlight since his brother Albert's death in 1970, Donald Ayler died of a heart attack in his home at the age of 65.
The son of a musician who played violin and tenor sax, and six years younger than his brother, he began playing the alto saxophone at 16 but soon switched to trumpet. He attended the Cleveland Institute, and played locally with saxophonist Charles Tyler, a cousin.
After a brief stay in Sweden in his early twenties, Ayler joined his brother's band in New York in 1965, contributing the composition "Our Prayer" to the group's repertoire. He remained with his brother, appearing on a number of the elder Ayler's best-known recordings, until 1968.
A nervous breakdown curtailed his playing, and he returned to Cleveland, where he was inactive for several years after his brother's mysterious drowning. In the early '70s, he began performing again in the company of local tenor saxophonist Al Rollins and several other Cleveland musicians. In 1981, Ayler took his septet to Italy, where he recorded a three-album set called In Florence.