Monday, January 22, 2018

Charles Gayle - Solar System (For Tune, 2017)

Free jazz icon Charles Gayle plays the tenor saxophone and piano, and he has had an incredible lifelong journey from growing up in Buffalo to the streets of New York City and eventually becoming an elder statesman in the field of avant-garde improvised music. This album is one of many he has made recently, recorded live in October of 2016 in Warsaw, Poland and he performs in the company of Max Andrzejewski on drums and Ksawery Wójciński on bass and opens with "Mercury" which is perhaps the most conventional Charles Gayle track on the album, but no less welcome for it's inclusion, perfectly situated in the lead off spot and featuring Gayle on saxophone driving relentlessly forward with a strong and acerbic tone that suits him very well. There are some hints of bebop in his musical DNA present here and there is an excellent section for solo bass and feathery percussion that offsets the louder and more dynamic moments. There is a more spare and open feeling to "Venus" with a plaintive almost ballad sensibility, where Gayle gets a whinnying tone to his saxophone akin to Spiritual Unity period Albert Ayler. The music has periods of caustic grace, granting for the spacial dynamics by the looseness of the bass and drums accompaniment. Gayle's sound is deeply personal and expressive here, bearing his soul for all to hear. He moves to the piano for "Earth," which balances the angularity found in the music of Thelonious Monk or Andrew Hill with surprising melodicism and hints of swing. He remains at the piano for "Mars," evoking the god of war with crashing, cascading runs on the piano, framed by nimble bowed bass and fractured percussion. Gayle turns the performance on a dime, making it into a tender ballad to the surprise of all. "Jupiter" moves the music into jaunty melodic territory, unapologetically swinging and rippling across the keyboard with percussive asides, vocalizing in a bluesy manner to boot. Spare piano notes open "Saturn" patiently building a melodic center contrasting high register notes with the occasional low end bomb, eventually joined with lightly played percussion, where Andrzejewski develops his own patient and gradually evolving solos statement. The bass enters with Gayle returning to saxophone, and as this is the longest track on the album, the trio is able to stretch out and marshal their forces for a fast paced and dramatically powerful conclusion. Finally, "Uranus" ends the album with Gayle at the piano, playing a jaunty tune that is the perfect conclusion for an album that is a fine encapsulation of his work as a whole. Solar System -

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