Charles Gayle Trio - Live at Glenn Miller Café

Nick Pitt, Coda

I interviewed Charles Gayle in late Junuary of this year and he expressed dissatisfaction with his current music – he wanted to change the way he played but he was unable to describe the direction he was moving in.
This record was captured in performance two weeks later and it is clear from the opening notes that Gayle has turned to some sort of frenetic free jazz corner. First, there are tunes – "Cherokee", "Softly as a Morning Sunrise" and "Giant Steps" being the most recognizable. Second, this record has a clearly discernable sense of time. It is downright cookin' in spots.
In bassist Gerald Benson and drummer Michael Wimberly, Gayle has found two musicians who slide effortlessly into and out of strict time as the overall texture of the music dictates. "Cherokee" for example is a ferocious (and pithy) five minutes of 8/8 time interspaced with vivid free passages; "Giant Steps" is almost militaristic in parts as the tension of Wimberly's snare slices through Gayle's ragged wail.
Gayle himself has lost nothing of the power that characterizes his best recordings. He plays alto here instead of his usual tenor and the result is a sharpening of urgency and distress in the music. He is a hurricane of rapid-fire squawks wails and fat, flattened chords more akin to a crazed accordion than a battered alto.
He has Coleman's plaintive moan, Saunders's ADD freneticness, and Coltrane's sharp, iron-hard attack all in his toolbox. To these he adds a sense of impatience – each idea is attacked from two or three directions and dropped as his unrelenting musical hunger moves on to new prey.
Capably recorded in what is clearly a small, tight club, Live at Glenn Miller Café is a shocking, arresting, fascinating and rewarding pleasure. Like the great Free Jazz and New Thing records from over four decades ago it will nourish and challenge for years to come. Find it.