Thursday, May 8, 2008
Charles Gayle/William Parker/Rashied Ali - By Any Means (Ayler Records, 2008) ****
It is probably a very personal and subjective thing, but there is nothing in jazz that beats the clean, direct and undistorted naked sound of small improvising ensembles. It is often music straight from the heart of the musicians, without complicated arrangements or post-editing, but with depth, also speaking directly to the heart of the listener. And that is what I like about Charles Gayle. He is often criticized for his screaming and wailing, and sure, not everything he does is successful, but on this performance, recorded in Norköpping in Sweden in October last year, he is in great shape, as are of course William Parker and Rashied Ali, performing together under the band name "By Any Means". This is free jazz, free bop and free blues in its purest form, and a real joy from beginning to end. Gayle has the strange habit to play the main theme of the different tunes in a blaring, almost unrespectful way, as if he can't wait to start improvising, but once he starts doing that, his tone becomes warmer, richer, deeper and a real pleasure to hear. Parker and Ali are also at their best, both acting as full members of a trio, equally represented in getting the credits for the tracks as for the solo time they have. One of the highlights of the album is "Macchu Picchu", which starts with a 5 minute sensitive arco "intro" by Parker, which evolves into a slow and bluesy improvisation by Gayle. On the following track Ali shows all his skills, both in power-play and in rhythmic subtleties. The second part of the set is much more powerful than the first one, with Parker really bringing out the best in Gayle, in a more free environment, more expressive and creative, with Ali in a role which could befit Paul Motian, suggesting rhythms and accentuating where necessary. A strong performance.