CHARLES GAYLE TRIO

Shout
Clean Feed CF 033CD

PAUL FLAHERTY & MARC EDWARDS
Kaivalya Volume 1
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1177

Unbridled emotionalism has always been somewhat suspect among formally trained musicians – even some jazz players who should know better. Forgetting yourself momentarily while emphasizing the contours of a romantic ballad or the pace of a rhythm tune is OK, they sniff condescendingly. But, they warn, forgetting yourself this way too often leads to sloppy intonation and wrong notes.

Two veteran saxophonists who probably think about wrong notes and sloppy intonation about as often as they do about five star restaurant meals – that is never – aren’t bothered by the niceties of intonation and tone. As Charles Gayle and Paul Flaherty demonstrate on these distinctive CDs, intertwining passion and invention trounces note-perfect formalism every time.

Moreover they do this with a healthy regard for the tradition, albeit the Free Jazz tradition. New York-based Gayle, whose notoriety radiates as much from his former life as a street person as his overriding commitment to improvisation, exhibits his passion even with the three standards featured on the aptly named SHOUT! One is a solo piano outing done in an ornamental style similar to the individualized numbers on his all-piano CD of 2000. The other familiar melodies are turned inside out and reconstituted exactly the same way he treats the religious-titled originals here.

Flaherty, from Hartford, Conn., who has been known to work as a housepainter or street musician when he can’t get a Free Jazz gig, is as uncompromising in his intense emotional output on both alto and tenor saxophones. Although recently he’s played with figures as disparate as microtonal trumpeter Greg Kelley and guitarist Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, on KAIVALYA VOL 1 he’s partnered by drummer Marc Edwards of Queens, N.Y., another Free Jazz veteran whose associations include stints in the bands of Cecil Taylor and Davis S. Ware.

Although it would seem that Edwards and Flaherty are psyching themselves up for the massive exposition that is “Mahabharasta”, the almost 23½-minute piece that concludes the CD, in truth their contrapuntal cooperation is just as intense from the first note of “Dark Desert”, the lead off track. Throughout, the mating of the drummer’s jagged rumble of paradiddles and flams plus ride cymbal socks, and the saxophonist’s molten honks, squeal and squeaks works magnificently. Although most of the time it appears as if the saxophonist is forcing overblown phrases though clenched teeth and constricted throat, he pauses at points for a smeary balalladic section of split tones, as the percussionist weaves, flaps, rolls and rebounds on his drums and cymbals.

Preludes to “Mahabharasta”, the improvisations on “Janagma” and “Pillows for Mummies” are particularly noteworthy. Built around a sort of Arabic lilt from Flaherty’s alto saxophone, his coiling musette-like pitch and flutter-tongue variations seem to push Edwards towards the outlands as well. The drummer’s resonance could come from an Inuit whale drum, but his subtle patterning has decidedly African precepts. Midway through, following the saxophonist’s winnowing timbre variations, Flaherty suddenly buries his notes deep within the horn’s body tube, first breathing distant themes than pushing out irregularly balanced note variations, until Edwards ends the track with a Native American tom-tom-like thump.

There’s more atmospheric travel on “Pillows for Mummies”, which rather than being billowy, finds Flaherty exposing a coarse, vibrated texture as if he was climbing the horn’s internal structure towards the reed and mouthpiece. Meanwhile Edwards hits the cymbals and hi-hat with redoubled ferocity, not only thickening the rhythm, but making it tougher and more abstract.

All these strategies and more are used with élan during “Mahabharasta”, as the two comfortably slash their way through the thickset of an extended composition that sporadically suggest earlier form investigators like Gato Barbieri and Pharoah Sanders. Although it’s the reedist’s flamboyant ejaculations that initially draw attention – he unspools phrase after phrase and variation after variation – the intuitive percussion work is soon as much an attraction.

Exhibiting resonated press rolls in an Art Blakey-like fashion, plus cross-rhythms and ride and hi-hat cymbal patterning à la Max Roach, Edwards confirms Free Jazz’s links to the pre-New Thing rhythm masters. Plus these deeply felt polyrhythms guide Flaherty’s alto from blunt-note violence into smeared, contrapuntal over-blowing, moving reed perforations from splintering textures to expansive sound block building. Soon, energetic syllables and phrases twist and curve into speech-inflected harmonies. With percussion scrapes, friction and concussions magnified, the saxman’s cries begin to resemble the altissimo screeches of a wounded or perhaps dying animal – he ascends tones so quickly that it sound as if he’s moved past the keys and is only playing the mouthpiece. Poly-harmonically, his foghorn tone and intricate screech complement Edwards’ rhythmic pres rolls and ride cymbal friction, to such an extent that you eagerly anticipate KAIVALYA VOL 2.

Rhythmic intricacy is the hallmark of Gayle’s accompanists as well. At least a decade younger than Edwards, Detroit-native Gerald Cleaver has finessed the drum parts behind such disparate leaders as multi-reedist Roscoe Mitchell and microtonal violist Matt Maneri. A grizzled fighter in the jazz trenches, bassist Sirone, was playing with the Revolutionary Ensemble in the earliest days of The New Thing and leads his own band from Berlin, where he now lives.

Dealing with standards such as “What’s New?” the three append so many variations upon the melody that you barely recognize the shape of the stripped and scrapped theme. During its presentation, determined arco wallops from Sirone and rattling drums from Cleaver presage Gayle piling double-tongued action around the theme, finally moving to passages rife with altissimo squeals. Coda involves the bassist deliberately constructing a line that ascends to meet the saxman’s wavering timbres.

Heavy foot on the sustain pedal and packed with flashing arpeggios and octave jumps, “I Can’t Get Started”, Gayle’s more than 11½-minute solo piano feature mutates the theme many times after the primary exposition. Absorbing herky-jerky Ragtime syncopation, development then becomes even more ornamental and speedy, as cross-handed, Monk-like plinks outline the highest notes. Oscillating between pseudo-Stride runs and high frequency right-handed trills, he advances the melody gingerly, sometime adding free-flowing romantic accents as well a quirky interpolations and excursions. Double timing with plenty of tremolo, he concludes by reprising the theme buried in as many rococo trills as you’d find in any cocktail lounge rendition.

As he ages, Gayle output seems more melodious – that is if you hear Sonny Rollins’ reed-masticating of the 1950s and 1960s as melodic – but even these asides are pierced by nephritic lamentations. And it’s the same whether Gayle is trilling grainy lines from his alto as he does on “Shout of Love” or burbling multiphonics from his more familiar tenor saxophone as on “Healing Souls”.

The difference is that by the time he reaches the end of the first tune, his snorting flutter-tonguing and overblowing subsides into an atonal version of trading fours, first with Cleaver’s rough-and-ready press rolls, flams and ruffs, then with Sirone’s reverberating double-stopping and low-pitched syncopation.

Much faster, the later tune features bell-muting and split tones, but rides on Gayle’s ability to spin out emphasized squealing and squeaking intense near-oonomatopoeia in trick registers. Sirone grabs blunt resonation from his bass strings and Cleaver beats down the rhythm with heavy flams and rebounds until the saxophonist climaxes with an Ornette Coleman-like march of repeated reed percussion.

Elsewhere renal reed shrieks make common cause with earth-shaking bass drum vibrations and pinpointed cymbal quivers, while at other points, the bassist’s thick pacing helps the saxophonist attain speaking-in-tongue emotionalism and almost double-reed resonance. Moreover, you can tell all are having a good time.

At the beginning of “Glory Dance”, Gayle quips: “Don’t tell nobody what we’re doing here, you understand,” which is followed by a belly laugh from Sirone.

Do just the opposite, tell everyone about the virtue of SHOUT and KAIVALYA.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Shout: 1. I Remember You 2. Glory Dance 3. What’s New? 4. Shout of Love 5. Unto Jesus Christ 6. I Can’t Get Started* 7. Independence Blues 8. Healing Souls

Personnel: Shout: Charles Gayle (tenor saxophone and piano*); Sirone (bass); Gerald Cleaver (drums)

Track Listing: Kaivalya: 1. Dark Desert 2. Small Doorway 3. Amrita (Soma) 4. Pillows for Mummies 5. Janagma 6. Mahaharasta

Personnel: Kaivalya: Paul Flaherty (alto and tenor saxophones); Marc Edwards (drums)