Thursday, February 16, 2012

Charles Gayle - Streets (Northern Spy, 2012)

Tenor saxophonist (and occasional pianist) Charles Gayle has had an extraordinary journey since leaving his home in Buffalo, NY as a young man to pursue his musical vision in New York City. He spent many years living on the sidewalks and the abandoned buildings of New York as part of the unseen homeless that populate every city. These experiences have helped to mold his musical alter-ego "Streets" where Gayle dresses partly in clown makeup and is free to step outside of himself and let his musical exuberance truly fly free. On this album it definitely flies, in a wide open trio setting, well supported by Larry Roland on bass and Michael TA Thompson on drums. Gayle concentrates strictly on tenor saxophone on this album, building wave upon wave of energy music born of the "new thing" but molded and tempered until achieving a tone that cuts like stainless steel. "Compassion I" sets the pace of the album with painfully raw and honest tenor saxophone ripping through time and space, excellently supported and encouraged by bass and drums as Gayle tries to reach the ideal state of the title by bearing his musical soul for all to hear. Charles Gayle is devoutly religious and the lengthy "Glory and Jesus" is the centerpiece of the album. Waves of scalding tenor pour forth with the fervor of a hellfire preacher with a hallelujah chorus of bass and drums riding point. "Tribulations" wraps up the album by taking all of the varied experiences that Gayle has faced: the ups and downs of life on the street, the day by day struggle with music, spirituality and life itself and lays everything on the line. This was an excellent album, perhaps Gayle's finest since the epochal Touchin' on Trane LP. It is hard to believe that a 73 year old man who has lived such a hard life can play with such an extraordinary amount of passion, but Gayle proves that power and commitment to vision and spirit are timeless virtues. Streets -

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