Charles Tyler was an innovative musician who could unfurl a maelstrom of ideas from just a spark. He played with fire and spirit, finding his muse in free jazz and filling his music with bold inventions.
Tyler met Albert Ayler when he was 14. He later went on to play with Ayler, whose influence can be heard in his approach. Tyler, however, held his own shining in the company of other free jazz votaries like Cecil Taylor, Dewey Redman, David Murray and Billy Bang.
This debut recording as a leader conceptualizes his focus and the path that he was on. It is at once laudatory and probing, a testament of hope that was destined to be fulfilled to an extent. Tyler's career did not fully celebrate his talent. A pity indeed, for he had a lot to offer.
The ensemble was well-constructed to fit in with Tyler's pursuits. Henry Grimes (bass) was a key mover of the avant-garde scene in the sixties. So were Ronald Shannon Jackson (drums) and Joel Friedman (cello); all three of them played with Ayler at some point. As for Charles Moffett (orchestral vibes), he cast his die with Ornette Coleman and then went on to Carla Bley and Pharoah Sanders.
The ability to rise at the call of a note and pursue the path of invention is the link between these musicians. Each is an innovator who adds to the development of a theme, bringing in distinctive adjuncts that become integral parts of the whole.
Tyler serves notice of what is to transpire as he weaves an agonized, convoluted line on "'Strange Uhuru." Taut guttural intonations cry out and find their soul mate in the anguish of Friedman's cello, while Moffett lightens the hue with his chiming vibes. Grimes predicates a direct approach, plucking and bowing straight lines.
"Three Spirits" jumps up from a calypso melody only for Tyler to rip it open. He twists and turns like a frenzied avatar whose ideas keep jumping out of every line. The mood is just right for Jackson who whips up a crisp rhythm that stays close to the horn. That unbridled passion is tamed by the bow, whose light tone is nectar in comparison. This album is a testimony to the fact that intensity and light exist in neat juxtaposition.
Bold and intense, Tyler's music still makes a relevant statement.
Personnel: Charles Tyler: alto sax; Joel Friedman: cello; Henry Grimes: bass; Ronald Jackson: drums; Charles Moffett: orchestra vibes.