home » cd catalogue » Charles Gayle Trio - Live at GMC » Matthew Miller, AllAboutJazz

Charles Gayle Trio - Live at Glenn Miller Café

Matthew Miller, AllAboutJazz

When 67-year old multi-instrumentalist Charles Gayle takes the stage, audiences brace for an onslaught. Melodic fragments from his saxophone swell into dramatic runs and trills, culminating in piercing shrieks and whistles, or the pounded bass notes of a grand piano. Gayle's scorching saxophone sound, honed on the streets of NYC during two decades of homelessness, packs a jarring emotional punch with its vibrato laden cry, at times conjuring the spirit of Trane and the sonic excursions of Ayler.

Despite being on the scene in the '60s, in the heyday of the avant garde, Gayle's astonishing sound wasn't captured (officially) until the late '80s when a small coterie of jazz fans began to recognize the talent of the man standing on the street corner wailing away with limitless creativity and energy. Things began to improve for Gayle. Gig opportunities opened up, as well as the chance to record, of which Gayle took full advantage. In less than 20 years Gayle has played around the world and recorded no less than 27 albums as a leader/co-leader.

Captured on a winter night in Stockholm, Live At Glenn Miller Café is a scorching set of Gayle originals and standards that must have been in sharp contrast to the frigid temperatures outside. After an introduction, the band, consisting of Gayle (alto), Gerald Benson (bass) and Michael Wimberly (drums), drives into "Cherokee" at breakneck speed. Gayle sticks to the melody for about 20 seconds before veering off into frantic improvisation, emerging periodically from the foray to sound a piece of the melody as if to remind his audience what they're listening to. The band takes incredible freedoms with the well-worn form, hinting at the bridge before opening up the A-section into a vast, churning void where Gayle builds the intensity with screeching, vocal exclamations over a simmering ride and booming bass pedal.

"Softly As In A Morning Sunrise" starts with a mournful alto statement that is quickly joined by bowed bass and scratched cymbals. The 14-minute excursion that gradually develops from there uses the melody as a very loose springboard from which the group constructs its improvisation, threading the rhythmic or harmonic structures through an otherwise completely free bonanza. After two Gayle originals, "Chasing" and "Praising The Lord", "Giant Steps" is similarly transformed. Although the band sticks more to the harmonic structure, giving the listener the opportunity to hear Gayle's unique approach to playing over changes, one that is showed to even greater advantage on the ballad "What's New".