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Arthur Doyle & Sunny Murray: Live at the Glenn Miller Caf

Derek Taylor By

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Arguably more able to engender polemical reaction than any other living saxophonist, Arthur Doyle stands noticeably apart in the free jazz canon (if there can rightfully be considered such a thing). A pariah to some, a prophet to others, he approaches his instruments in manner that makes the term ‘idiosyncratic’ seem painfully inept. His sound and phrasing are such to elicit immediate opinion. A fellow saxophone iconoclast Charles Gayle works on an analogous level, but even his detractors have been want to admit his ability on the horn. Not so with Doyle. The press has routinely lambasted him as a charlatan and hack (for a particularly scathing indictment, see Steve Loewy’s review of Doyle’s A Prayer for Peace (Zugswang) in Cadence magazine). This in spite of the fact that he’s been an active figure in the music for decades, contributing to such legendary recordings as Noah Howard’s The Black Arc (Freedom). In his own words clarifying his technique (which are captured in this disc’s liners), “first you have to come from belly, like you are throwing everything out of it. Next you humming and whistling at the same time making your lip irate.”

In many respects Murray and Doyle are kindred spirits, each man has devised a wholly original approach to his art. Where they differ is their relative reputations. The former is generally (and rightfully) lauded, as the one of the fathers of free jazz drumming, while the latter, as mentioned, is more frequently the recipient of critical vitriol. This date is unlikely to sway any sentiments. Doyle is in full cantankerous bloom pouring forth an unflinching stream of overtones and strangled reed sobs beginning with his own “African Love Call.” Murray sets the stage unaccompanied carving out a crashing bulwark against which the saxophonist beats his figurative brow in terse snorts and whinnies. The unvarnished barrage continues with only fleeting references to any kind of guiding theme, other that what surfaces in the musicians’ minds extemporaneously. “Two Free Jazz Men Speak” charts a parallel course with Doyle contorting his already twisted tone into an array of grotesque multiphonics and mangled microtones. The listening however does seem one-sided, with Doyle barreling forward and the leaving Murray to frame his relentless exhortations. The drummer’s brief solo, which erupts at the piece’s middle is easily one of the highpoints of the disc’s, as is Doyle’s unexpected entrance soon after on comparatively demulcent flute. Later a flood of nonsensical vocalizations floods forth from his lips.

Norström’s introductory duets with Murray, which preface the main event, offer instructive contrast. The saxophonist traffics heavily in Aylerisms during the second “Spontaneous Creation” touching on the melodic kernels of several of the master’s tunes. Murray’s tumbling drums frame the sometimes-meandering horn lines with rising and ebbing washes of percussive force. Confronted at face value this is visceral energy music designed to strike the ears with maximum emphatic impact. Astute readers will likely be familiar with Dawn of a New Vibration, the currently available duet recording by Doyle and Murray on the French Fractal imprint. Though taped less than a month later, this Glenn Miller set is a different animal, proof that true improvisatory music never unfolds the same way twice. Whether you love Doyle or despise him there’s no denying the stamina and resolve he puts into his performances.

Ayler Records on the web: http://www.ayler.com


Track Listing: Spontaneous Creation, part 1/ Spontaneous Creation, part 2/ Spontaneous Creation, part 3/ African Love Call/ Two Free Jazz Men Speak/ Nature Boy/ Joy.

Personnel: Arthur Doyle- tenor saxophone, flute, vocals; Sunny Murray- drums; Bengt Frippe Nordstr

Title: Live at the Glenn Miller Caf | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Ayler Records


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