Charles Gayle: Always Reaching
AAJ: With your playing, it's like you have 10 ideas going.
CG: Sometimes I have to watch that. I don't know if it's too much or too little. Sometimes when you sit home and you do things, and you get ready to do it, and you say I've got everything under control and you don't. I don't know if I have anymore thoughts than anyone else. That's for other people to decide. I'm trying to do something, and it's a lot. It doesn't have to be busy, but it's always a lot. I want technique that you can't even questiontechnique being fast, not just style. Clear and clean, even be slow and be clean, but I absolutely want all that movement and thoughts and try to put it all together.
It's hard, and I don't know if it works or not. I just go with it. It works better for me than to not go with it. I want to take chances and not have everything down because sometimes I play blindfolded. At some point in the set, I put a mask over my eyes, and then put an exotic mask on so people can look at something. Then I can't see anything. It's hard to judge the keyboard at all. It's not a gimmick. It's to create another music. It pushes me. It would push anyone. You're just blind. You don't know what you're going to do. You don't know where your fingers are going to land, and so therefore, you have to create something out of that. Now, if a person is normally blind, they develop a style in certain parameters where they know where the piano is. You can play the blues without seeing it because the piano has patterns. Once you go past the first eight notes, the second eight notes are the same. That's a feel process. But this way, playing free, it develops another music. I don't know if it's good or bad, but I'm going to do it just to change up now and then. So who knows, if it's not interesting, I won't do it.
AAJ: You've always been highly independent. Any idea where that comes from?
CG: If I have to give credit to anyone, it's my parents. They were independent thinkers. Maybe everybody is, but I know them best of course. They spoke their mind in a very peaceful way, not afraid. They told me to think for myself. I don't do this to be independent; I just don't see how you could not be. It's just natural for me to be the way I am. It's not for show. The clown, the mask, the drumsit's just like drinking water to me. I put on a clown nose because I thought that this will strip you of your ego. I didn't do it to look funny. It's just me.
AAJ: Any more piano projects in the works?
CG: I have discussed one with Tompkins Square Records. It might be with a group. I'm thinking of a few things. One might be with a trio. I would like to one that's not related to clubs, some type of theatre. I have some things I'd like to take to a stage that you can't do in clubs. It might be more appropriate in some kind of space that isn't a club. Everyone plays trio, but the only one I've heard that was different, really different, was Ahmad Jamal, that was a different kind of trio. There was a lot of rhythm and different stuff going and I learned something from that. I don't want to have a regular trio because that's been done a lot. It's been done well and I certainly don't want to do what everyone else is doing. I'm working on it now, and I don't know if I'll come up with something clear and good enough to put up there, but I'm going to try. I don't want a regular trio. If it's going to be regular, I don't want to play because that's not digging deep enough for me. I want everyone to listen. I'm an old man. I don't know what to say.
AAJ: Well, you play like you're young at heart.
CG: I am a kid. There is the kid in there, and I want him to stay in there for a while. It's a privilege for me to play, considering what people have to go through in life. It's a privilege and an honor to be able to play music, and travel and do things you just don't get a chance to do in life. There's enough musicians who have passed that have been here to push you to the edge, and to motivate you and keep you going. The level of music is so high considering people who were here and passed on that you can't quit. I don't think I'll ever reach it, but maybe it's best that I don't feel like I can and keep trying.
Charles Gayle, Time Zones (Tompkins Square, 2006)
Charles Gayle, Shout! (Clean Feed, 2005)
Charles Gayle, Precious Soul (FMP, 2001)
Charles Gayle, Jazz Solo Piano (Knitting Factory, 2001)
Charles Gayle, Ancient of Days (Knitting Factory, 2000)
Charles Gayle, Daily Bread (Black Saint, 1998)
Charles Gayle, Unto I Am (Victo, 1995)
Charles Gayle, Abiding Variations (FMP, 1993)
Charles Gayle, Touchin' on Trane (FMP, 1991)
Photo Credit: Tony Rodgers