Two new releases illuminate for anyone with ears the genius of Charles Gayle. Another crucial release from Ayler Records, the Charles Gayle Trio's Live at Glenn Miller Cafe, spends a vibrant evening, recorded earlier this year, with Gayle on alto re-imagining such standards as "Giant Steps, and "What's New, as well as featuring a few highly original compositions. Tompkins Square records releases Time Zones, a collection of originals played by Gayle on solo piano guaranteed to drop the jaws of fans solely familiar with the legendary reedman's stampeding improvisations. Imagine ten at once with a Tatumesque streak coloring his attack.
His first piano solo CD since 2001's Jazz Solo Piano, Time Zones shows the results of five years of intensive practice and polishing. His compositions expose his love of traditional jazz forms, while his improvisations delight in continually testing the elasticity of those forms. With left hand thunder announcing the title track, the theme emerges unassuming and simple, until Gayle shuffles the keys resulting in time and thematic variations. Opening with an understated theme, "Rush to Sunrise organically grows fireworks. On "Delight, he tickles volumes of music out of a Monk simple phrase.
Gayle brings the delta to him on Blues in Mississippi, equally at ease playing gritty or grand, while "Rhythm Twins pits his hands against each other competing as unison whirlwinds. The lyrical and romantic "Inner Edges creates a wistful open mood with occasional flourishes, and continues in that vein to close the set with "That Memory. Gayle fills Times Zones with a playful stylish urbanity that holds up on repeated listenings.
Charles Gayle Trio
Live At The Glen Miller Cafe
On Live At the Glenn Miller Cafe, Gayle returns to alto sax for some impassioned performances, four tracks featuring the trio's takes on well worn standards, clearly referencing the panoramic scope of their vision. Gayle assails the covers, revealing facets previously undreamt with often breathtaking results. Hurtling through a wild take on Parker's show tune, "Cherokee, Professor Gayle lays out for all to see the sometimes described as hard to find link between bebop and free jazz. It's too creative, laying the track with the train bearing down, to describe it as deconstructed. The Hammerstein/ Romberg chestnut, "Softly As A Morning Sunrise, enters quietly and builds to a medium tempo wide ranging improvisation. The theme receives a scant nod eight minutes in, then back to the business at hand. The trio sneaks up on Giant Steps through a back door, starting with a crisp march and hints of the theme. Given a suitably low-key tempo, "What's New gracefully explores the margins.
Another cover, Albert Ayler's "Ghosts, piggybacks the original, "Holy Redemption. An appropriate pairing, the latter begins with swirls and swoops from Gayle, with Benson on the bow, and Wimberly busy. Their free form motion coalesces around "Ghosts, played in a surprisingly straightforward way. With the petal on the floor, "Chasing careens through its lung threatening paces, slowing for the transition to the more reverently paced "Praising the Lord, with its exalted prayer played multiphonically.
Charles Gayle's new CDs argue strongly for a wider audience and greater recognition. For virtuoso power and originality, these Gayle force performances will satisfy the most demanding jazz fan.
Personnel: Charles Gayle: solo piano.
Tracks: Time Zones; Rush to Sunrise; Delight; Blues In Mississippi; Rhythm Twins; Inner Edges; That Memory.
Live At The Glen Miller Cafe
Personnel: Charles Gayle: alto sax; Gerald Benson: bass; Michael Wimberly: drums.
Tracks: Introduction; Cherokee; Softly As In a Morning Sunrise; Chasing-Praising the Lord; Giant Steps; What's New; Holy Redemption-Ghosts.