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By Any Means - Live at Crescendo

Jeff Stockton, AllAboutJazz

(Honorable Mention - Best New Release 2008)

20 years ago Charles Gayle forged a reputation for iron chops, a relentless attack and Biblical fervor, a time when a 25-minute tune would have been considered the “short” one. In the intervening years as Gayle has aged (and mellowed) he’s put aside his tenor to sit down at the piano and now when he stands back up he picks up an alto sax instead. If anything, the switch to the smaller horn has preserved his endurance, extended his facility and given him quicker access to his upper register (Gayle was always partial to the high end of the tenor).
In 1991 Gayle, bassist William Parker and drummer Rashied Ali, cut the acknowledged masterpiece, Touchin’ on Trane, a more composed, more accessible and even swinging oblique tribute to Coltrane that best focused Gayle’s musical vocabulary. The trio reconvened at the 2006 Vision Festival under the name By Any Means and throughout the two-disc Live at Crescendo, beautifully recorded in Sweden, Ali combines his familiarity with the free jazz idiom and an intuitive feel for inside-out rhythms, while Parker’s chunky riffing enables Gayle to ricochet his own runs off the bass notes as if opening a box of ping-pong balls. Gayle’s tone is fractured, jagged, cubist, off-kilter, staggered, strangulated and feverish and together the band performs with a singularity of purpose that only top musicians can attain.