Charles Gayle

Live at Glenn Miller Café
Ayler aylCD-015

Playing alto saxophone rather than his usual tenor, this live set encapsulates New York-based Charles Gayle’s art bruit. Often described as a throwback to the no-holds-barred Energy Music of the 1960s, the reedist invests his performances with enough verve and perspicacity that it’s as if that exploratory decade never ended.

Demonstrative as well as discordant, his strident runs and choked vibrato allow him to practically recompose tunes such as “Giant Steps” and “Cherokee”. Meanwhile his glossolalia coupled with the strident rhythms of drummer Michael Wimberley and bassist Gerald Benson give standards like “What’s New” and “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise” an inchoate dissonance similar to the interface exhibited on shrieking and dissonant Gayle originals.

Often playing altissimo, the saxophonist masticates phrases and timbres, then spits them out double-tongued and with a wide vibrato. The most characteristic work is on two extended tracks. “Chasing/Praising The Lord”, for instance, arches upwards from Gayle’s crying split tones and flattement to the trio members alternating strident, resonating instrumental timbres with guttural speaking-in-tongues, evocations of divine mercy and God’s name.

Wimberly’s tympani rolls and Benson’s legato arco swells bounce and ripple behind the saxophonist’s yodeling broken tones on “Holy Redemption”. When he extends the track with Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” tremolo bugle-call-like variations meld with sul tasto bass work and blunt percussion attacks to toughen the familiar theme and make it more abstract.

Live is a characteristic, reflection of Gayle’s alternately secular and scared art.

— Ken Waxman

For Whole Note Vol. 12 #3