ARTHUR DOYLE/SUNNY MURRAY

Live at Glenn Miller Café
Ayler Records aylCD-002

There are some people who regard Alabama-born tenor saxophonist Arthur Doyle as an idiot savant. Others drop the savant part.

Certainly Doyle's odd personal and playing history, checkered recording career and sometimes bizarre pronouncements give fuel to those who see all first-generation energy players from Albert Ayler to Charles Gayle as just one step away from the psycho ward.

Actually, the saxophonist who has suffered mental breakdowns and (unjustly) spent time in prison, is a primitive in the best sense of the word. Even more than in his past work with more balanced types like drummer Milford Graves and saxophonist Noah Howard, here he uses his horns as a mirror to the inner workings of his psyche. Luckily drummer Sunny Murray, who has had bouts of strangeness himself in the almost 40 years since he first came to prominence with Cecil Taylor, is here to offers some focus.

Most of Doyle's playing is harsh and gravelly if it isn't in the upper range of altissimo. He'll never screech when a squeal will do, and never play a simple melody when overblowing will distort it some more. Multi-noted atonality is his stock in trade and he seems to begin his police siren-like horking at the point where Pharoah Sanders or Peter Brötzmann at their most discordant would have run out of steam, and go on from there. Unfortunately, as on "Joy" there seems to be no beginning or end to his honking attack and it falls to Murray's virtuosic snare and cymbal work to supply a structure.

You could accept what Doyle terms "free jazz soul music" and even be impressed by its sheer stamina, if the fear didn't exist that some of what he produces is by accident rather than design. This suspicion deepens when on "Two Free Jazz Men Speak" he begins playing the same notes over and over again and even segues into phrases that sound most like the children's ditty "In the land of France/where the ladies wear no pants." This artlessness slops over into his flute playing, which despite Murray producing a quasi-Latin rhythm seems to dissolve into miniature, vocalized metal note shards.

That still doesn't take into account Doyle's vocalizing, displayed on that tune and the standard "Nature Boy". With a delivery that makes Chet Baker sound like Mel Torme, he rumbles, mumbles, bumbles and shouts nonsense syllables that appear to relate neither to the compositions or what Murray is playing. A combination of falsetto whoops, speaking in tongues and primitive scat, it's horrifying and mesmerizing at the same time to hear a 57 year old man create something that sounds like a baby's first attempts at speaking and singing. While it goes on, the drummer first tries a military beat, then switches to brushes for a stealthy offensive and finally with protracted tom tom work pushes Doyle back into a more comfortable register.

Sheer inventiveness characterizes Murray's playing throughout, with Doyle and, on the first three tracks, where he accompanies alto saxophonist Bengt Frippe Nordström. A Swedish free jazz pioneer whose sax tone resembles that of a tenor, Nordström was ill at the time and died shortly afterwards. We would assume that the pastiche of Albert Ayler licks and garden variety energy tones he displays here was only an echo of better playing from his heyday.

New Thing fanatics, who remember his 1960s and 1970s discs, may find a certain perverse fascination in hearing Doyle's ravings and rudimentary soloing. He might think of himself as a Nature Boy, but his vocal delivery is now pushing him into Wild Man Fischer territory.

Lazy commentators often compare any free saxophone and drum duet to John Coltrane's final work with Rashied Ali. Neither of the saxophonists here approach Trane's artistry and this session is more SUNNY'S TIME NOW then his legendary 1965 record with that title. So, if Murray is your drummer of choice than this CD will attract your interest.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Spontaneous Creation, Part 1 2. Spontaneous Creation, Part 2 3. Spontaneous Creation, Part 3 4. African Love Call 5. Two Free Jazz Men Speak 6. Nature Boy 7. Joy

Personnel: Bengt Frippe Nordström [tracks 1 - 3](alto saxophone); Arthur Doyle [tracks 4 - 7] (tenor saxophone, flute, vocal); Sunny Murray (drums)