Tuesday 26 May 2015, 8pm
Charles Gayle is a saxophonist, pianist, nowadays also a double bassist, sometimes a clown and radical musical performer wrapped into the body of a humble person living in Downtown Manhattan since the 1960s. It is sometimes hard to predict what he will do on stage. In all his musical (and personal) life Charles Gayle has remained outside of any form of mainstream, carving his own singular path.
Tonight he performs in a trio alongside the great drummer Roger Turner, with whom he has developed an hypnotic rapport across previous performances, and the always compelling double bassist John Edwards.
“Somewhere out there is a parallel universe where Charles Gayle is included in the original pantheon of jazz musicians who launched the first wave of the New Thing in the mid-1960s; an alternative world where, like other septuagenarian survivors such as Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp, he's now mellowing into a partial return to bop and blues. In reality, however, Gayle has just released a new album of fierce and uncompromising free jazz, Streets, on the up-and-coming Brooklyn based imprint Northern Spy... proving that he is doing more than most to keep the radical flame of New York Fire Music burning.” – Dan Spicer, The WIRE
Charles Gayle blew down with hurricane force - the pun is too obvious - out of Buffalo. He drifted in and out of the first great free jazz scenes of the Sixties, playing with Pharoah, Archie Shepp, and other trailblazers. But he says now that his sound then was even more fiery and forceful than it is now, and he couldn't get a recording date. He drifted. He became homeless. He lived as a squatter in an abandoned Lower East Side tenement. He found Jesus. He played wherever he could; his steadiest gig was in the New York subways.
Eventually lightning struck. In the late Eighties Silkheart Records recorded three discs featuring Gayle's ecstatic, holy holy tenor. After that work, and recordings, came a bit more steadily. For the enigmatic German FMP label he recorded the all-time classic Touchin' on Trane with musicians as talented and passionate as he: bassist William Parker and drummer Rashied Ali. On some discs Gayle himself plays viola, bass clarinet, other oddments. But his chief double is piano, which he has played with increasing frequency and facility in recent years.
Popular perceptions may change, but a lot of people do not get familiar with the persononality of Charles Gayle because he speaks his mind in concert, and his views are not fashionable. He speaks about his Christian faith and about respect for life. He dresses up like a clown and acts the fool for the many who say he acts like a fool. His speech is as unpolished and sincere as his playing, and obviously springs from the same well.
There is no player on the scene today with the emotional wallop of Charles Gayle. His later discs - particularly Ancient of Days - manifest a mature improvisational talent that can stand with any saxophonists today. If you are interested in improvised music, you owe it to yourself to hear him.
Over decades Roger Turner has brought the renowned volcanic power and finely honed precision of his drum work to ensembles that have often forged real connections with musicians both sides of the Atlantic. In addition he has worked extensively in the microscopic laboratory of the acoustic duo situation where he acquired a highly developed sense of detail and of dynamic control. One of that select group of world-class players who have collectively redefined the language of contemporary percussion. In Turner's hands minute inflections of tension can shape the group's musical direction and galvanise a new level of audience experience.
John Edwards is a true virtuoso whose staggering range of techniques and boundless musical imagination have redefined the possibility of the double bass and dramatically expanded its role, whether playing solo or with others. Perpetually in demand, he has played with Evan Parker, Sunny Murray, Derek Bailey, Joe McPhee, Lol Coxhill, Peter Brötzmann, Mulatu Astatke and many others.
"I think John Edwards is absolutely remarkable: there’s never been anything like him before, anywhere in jazz." - Richard Williams, The Blue Moment