Friday, August 15, 2008

By Any Means - Live at the Crescendo (Ayler, 2008)

This is a collective group of free jazz heavyweights Charles Gayle on alto saxophone, William Parker on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. The group was responsible for the wonderful Touchin' On Trane album under Gayle's name for the FMP label several years ago and it is great to hear them recording again. The music here was recorded live and is fast paced and frenetic, but always in control. It seems to be a very focused form of free-bop rather than more abstract free improvisation, and it is quite accessible. The band functions very well as a full unit, and there is also much solo space available. Parker especially takes advantage of this, belying the myth of "boring" bass solos with flair and inventiveness. Apparently a concert recorded earlier was rejected by the musicians as not quite being up to snuff, but this was acceptable to all concerns. It is easy to understand why, with the group covering several facets of modern jazz from Ornette Coleman like free blues in "Zero Blues", to more spacey and spiritual improvisation on "Peace Inside" and "
Machu Picchu" which are anchored by massive Parker bass solos. "Eternal Voice" brings it all back full circle with a collectively improvised blowout that lays it all on the line and succeeds spectacularly. Gayle's tart and citrus tone echoes masters like Coleman and Sonny Simmons, while Parker lays down great Mingus like slabs of bass and Ali's pulse is ever shifting like the desert sands. This was a very impressive and completely successful recording of three masterful musicians totally in the moment. The music is frequently thrilling and is a treat for fans of open ended improvisation.

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