Charles Gayle: Live At The Glenn Miller Cafe & Consider The Lilies...
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 including his two latest efforts Live At Glenn Miller Café and Consider The Lilies.... 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 .
Also a live performance (recorded at Gayle's 2005 set from the Vision Festival), Consider The Lilies... starts with a quasi-march figure from the snare of drummer Jay Rosen before Gayle and bassist Hilliard Greene enter, bringing "Truley, Truley to a rolling boil. Gayle pulls out all the stops during his blistering five-minute solo, finally turning it over to Greene whose finger-popping lines and guttural double stops draw gasps from the vocal audience. Rosen starts his solo from the ground floor, building from his original march figure to a percussive frenzy, before Gayle enters at peak intensity with a series of honks and multiphonics to take it out.
"Edge Of Time finds the trio in an Ornette realm. The simple riff theme is stated by Gayle's alto before his solo begins over the medium swing tempo. Unlike Ornette, Gayle's solo quickly builds to a screeching high that the leader maintains into a churning open section where Rosen's splashy high hat and Greene's free arco statements segue into "Sanctify , a selection that features Gayle's beautiful piano work.
Depite the fact that six tracks are named on the jacket, Consider The Lilies... seems to end with track four, "Jesus...Amen , a piece that is certainly the high point of the album. Greene and Rosen lock in immediately and send Gayle off into an emotional explosion of improvisational energy based around a riff from Ornette's "Lonely Woman . Gradually the tune's harmonic structure reveals itself as Gayle's solo winds down and as quickly as it began, the piece vanishes into thin air.
Tracks and Personnel
Live at Glenn Miller Cafe
Tracks: Introduction; Cherokee; Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; Chasing, Praising The Lord; Giant Steps; What's New; Holy Redemption, Ghosts.
Personnel: Charles Gayle: alto saxophone; Gerald Benson: bass; Michael Wimberly: drums.
Consider The Lillies...
Tracks: Truley, Truley; Edge Of Time; Sanctify; Jesus...Amen; Of Ages; Giving.
Personnel: Charles Gayle: alto saxophone, piano; Hilliard Greene: bass; Jay Rosen: drums.