The Coltrane Tone Circle is now being researched as an example of the relationship between jazz and physics, music and geometry, and beyond. Now 50 years after his transition, we’re finally reaching a place where we can start to look into the areas Coltrane was driven to explore, as he attempted to make eye contact with God through his sound. While others are looking into the math, and some limited aspects of the principles attached to the form and energy of spiritual numerology, there’s another area I feel we’re ready to explore: The core Astrology of the lives of the most iconic figures in jazz. In looking at the Coltrane Circle, I see an Astrology circle; I see–the 12 Houses. Jazz musicians that are into astrology are certainly not a new thing. Charles Downs practices and the late great Will Connell was very deep into it. Will told me a story once about Horace Tapscott slamming his astrology book shut on him without offering an explanation as to why. I learned from my Aunt Sherry, my esoteric rock in my bloodline. There’s a case to be made that the information in a natal chart is not meant for us to see, as looking at the information is a violation of trust in God. In my chart with Uranus in the 9th house, I have to look. In regards to one’s relationship with God, I needed to look into the chart of Albert Ayler first, whose musical and spiritual relationship with the Universe was one of the most extreme in jazz history. I’m certainly no master of the idiom. However, I may be able to extract some of the deeper realities of Albert’s far too short life of 34 years old, the same age Charlie Parker was at the time of his death. Reading of Albert sitting in with Coltrane and Eric Dolphy in the early 60’s, could any of them have possibly known that by the end of 1970, all three of them would have ascended back to immortality? I was born the same year Albert died. We were both on the planet for about seven months. For my friends that are not into astrology, what follows is my interpretation of spiritual evidence. I’m painting in broad strokes.
Albert’s chart. July 13th, 1936. Cleveland Ohio. 1:27am
First things first, Albert has an extraordinary amount of the sign of cancer in his chart. Cancer is a cardinal sign. Albert’s unbounded enthusiasm in his music and interviews are examples of the cardinal aspect at full power. Cancer is also a water sign, representing emotions and their flow. Albert’s music is full of deep, personal, and spiritual emotions. Albert’s Sun (Identity), Mercury (communication), Venus (love, music) Mars (action), and Pluto (spiritual transformation) are all in cancer and all in the third house of communication. Having this much planetary weight all in one house focuses the vast majority of the planetary energies all into one place: his music. I also see this grouping as denoting tremendous spiritual power, so much in fact that it must have been virtually impossible to maintain. Cancer is ruled by the moon. Albert’s final night on Earth saw him seek out water via the east river, and I have to wonder if the moon was full on that tragic night.
Focusing more on the third house where my sun also resides, Albert’s Sun displays a gateway to power through personal expression, while some astrologers believe it denotes that several karmic tests must be passed to achieve higher spirituality. Two of Albert’s personal battlegrounds were family and his relationship with the world. He was extremely loyal to his brother Don and tasked with taking care of him by his mother. With family being an important aspect of Cancer, the guilt he felt from Don’s instability was severe. Throughout interviews, Albert speaks on being able to survive solely on his art referencing that Charles Ives worked in an area that contained no music and that Ives music only found appreciation after death. Albert too is appreciated far more today than during his lifetime. Albert’s album New Grass may have been a test of sorts as he was, as he says, told to make a record that was a compromise of his music and relationship with the world. William Parker has a band called in order to survive. Sabir Mateen and Daniel Carter have a band called Test.
Venus in the third house, with Mars and Pluto right there demanding action and spiritual transformation, allowed Albert to feel the emotions of the higher aspects of the human being deep within him. The challenge was for him to integrate these all-consuming emotions with literally no air aspects in his chart denying him full intellectual process. Albert was all emotion.
Pluto is the most powerful planet in the zodiac as it leaves you no choice other than to transform and grow, with death as the only alternative. Albert’s relationship with Pluto was profound. By way of the teachings of Jeffrey Wolf Green, we can look more closely. With Pluto in the third house, Albert had no choice other than to deliver his spiritual message. His process had to be a new experience, and he had to create something new. For Albert to just play standards, quietly resolve chord progressions and voice lead without reaching beyond those boundaries would have felt like death. His core consisted of an inner revolving mass of emotion with a constantly moving center. To process this much power he had the option to, and chose to develop his own spiritual process. Albert’s was a vast expansion of his upbringing in the black church. He was developing spiritual knowledge by way of his musical process. He had the ability to connect people to God through his music, as he knew that on a deep internal level, he was the truth!
Saturn (teaching through restriction) in the 11th house (friendships) made it difficult for anyone to reach Albert on a personal level to assist him in carrying so much weight. In interviews, he frequently compares himself with Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane seeing himself as different, yet equal, and that he was doing things that only he could do. Albert goes as far as to label Ornette and Coltrane as playing what he calls space-bop while he plays energy music that demands an open flow of energy pouring from the drums. He goes as far as to say that Ornette was just not strong enough to play like him. Sonny Rollins bowed before him, because “That’s all he could do!” (Albert loved Sonny) Ornette told me that he and Albert talked about Albert studying with him, but it seems that he would never have allowed himself to take the role of a student. Ornette believed that if Albert came to him, he would have lived. Albert felt a special connection with Eric Dolphy who encouraged him to keep working down his own path. They were planning on working together before the universe called them both back home early for reasons no astrologers will ever be able to figure out. Can you hear those two epic sounds responding to each other?
Trying not to drown in all that water, Both Albert’s ascendant (the personality that is shown to the world) and moon (inner world) were in Taurus. While this helped him stay grounded to a degree and provided him with the capacity for a high level of tenacity, it was a both a blessing and a curse. None could change his path, but by refusing outside influence and being unable to adapt or change, Albert couldn’t escape his own extremes. His first marriage ended in divorce. His partner Mary Parks tried to stop him from leaving right before he died but failed saying “There was no stopping him.”
Some of the other aspects of Albert’s chart prove interesting. Saturn opposite Neptune creates a feeling of living in two different worlds. Albert’s music world must have felt quite different from the daily grind he witnessed trying to survive in New York City. In fact, this feeling of separation may have contributed to a virtual impossibility for Albert to work in something that wasn’t music, as it would be against his core nature and true being. Many of us adapt in order to survive, but for Albert a day job meant death. How can you work a day job when you have the power to bring a transcendent vision to the world? Albert knew he had this power. Venus conjunct Pluto also gave Albert an exponential boost in the power of expression combined with a deep need to share profound feelings with others.
Interviews with Albert reveal his relationship with his own process. Some of the things he says can hit you just like his big low range on the tenor–like a bolt of spiritual lightning. A thunderclap of truth rolling across the heavens.
“Suffering made my tone stronger.
I lost my face through suffering; I wanted to get something.
(In regards to an 11 day fast that he undertook)
I live the music I play.
There must be peace and goodwill so that God’s work can be done.
I accomplished what I was born for.
The ever seeing eye is watching us, we must be aware of this. It’s getting late now.
One day everything will be as it should be.”
Moving past technical analysis, in his life, Albert Ayler was confronted with needing permission to pray. His spiritual heart was so big and burned so bright that for him not to be completely himself was simply not possible. He believed in sacrifice on multiple levels and is almost like Jesus willing to give his life to God, through music. In doing so, he became the holy ghost. There’s an expression in jazz that you should play as if your life depended on it. How many of us are compelled to reach so high? Albert Ayler was one of the extremely rare people in jazz history that walked the line on a whole other level. Charles Gayle is here now.
As ever, the clarity of Don Cherry resonates with tremendous vibration in regards to Albert:
“I felt as if I had known him before. His music was a gift, the voice, and reflection of God.”
Albert Ayler was still growing and changing before he left Earth. We can only wonder what the next stop on his journey was, and where he is now. I have often wondered that if you reach such incredible heights in your music as Albert and Coltrane achieved then perhaps the only direction left is to rise above this reality and become your actual sound. In the world that Albert and Coltrane left for, they no longer need saxophones. They, in essence, became their music. Down here on Earth their music continues to transform others just as they were transformed by making it. You can see the effect of Pluto there, but it is entirely unnecessary.
“Oh keep the peace, Oh keep the Faith!
Oh keep the peace, Oh keep the Faith!
Free at last!
Free at Last!”
Brother Albert, thanks for setting me and so many others..
Dedicated to the Holy Ghost.