Click here to [close]

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Charles Gayle Trio - Solar System (ForTune, 2018) ****½

By Gregg Daniel Miller

In the best tradition of blues-based free blowing, Charles Gayle, one of the stalwarts (b. 1939), and his trio are captured live at the 12on14 Jazz Club in Warsaw, Poland in October 2016, (released in December of 2017). This is a very nice recording. The clapping and club sounds add to the immediacy without distracting from the sonic quality of the capture.

Gayle on alto saxophone is a master of soaring emotion and quick turnarounds. Gayle’s playing is just so lively. Not all is perfection and clarity; he uses the sax as a silver-quick conveyor of impulse. Musical idea flows into musical idea in quick succession. Try to keep up kids. Gayle’s two band-mates (roughly 45 years his junior) are up to the task. Double-bassist Ksawery Wójcinski (b. 1983) is energetic, often walking, giving Gayle that churning nether tone-world over which to delight. Drummer Max Andrzejewski (b. 1986) plays with vigor, keeping it together with taps on his ride cymbal, off-the-beat snare hits, and expressive toms. Andrzejewski’s solos are tasteful, communicating in paragraphs, not just words.

Named the Solar System, each of the 7 tracks in this set bears the name of one of our solar system’s planets. They leave out Neptune and Pluto, I get that Pluto’s status as a planet has been seriously undermined, but what’s up with Neptune?

'Mercury', the opener, sets the table: a trio of 3 strong players, each of them bringing a brash singing quality to collective improvisation. 'Venus' is a sexy, sultry thing, Gayle’s slightly flat tone in bluesy flight over and against Andrzejewski’s ringing, melodic tom fills and Wójcinski ’s mobile, cascading bass runs which then morph into a pair of brief but moving, rhythmic solos.

On the 3rd track, 'Earth', Gayle moves to piano and plays it like he plays sax: with passion just on the edge of instability. The tune toggles between mess-o-notes and poignant. A thumping, walking bass line enters to give the Earth its blues. 'Mars' is a war-like attack, why not? And then the calming piano peace that comes with understanding. 'Jupiter' opens with a Jelly Roll Morton-type piano blues, complete with some hollering---just right for drinking. The lengthiest tune, 'Saturn', opens with Gayle’s sensitive piano and then Andrzejewski’s solo brushwork. All romance and off-kilter. Then the sax and bass enter over the drums to definitively re-engage the 3-way conversation. The romance quickens to a walking bass and Gayle’s free crooning sax: a mix of 16th note runs and punctuated, multiphonic, or held notes – and then a release into the stratosphere of overblowing atop a drumming onslaught. Just beautiful.

I prefer Gayle’s distinctive soaring sax to his piano thunking, but there’s something here for everybody. So, so glad Gayle remains open for business.