FAME Review: The Charles Gayle Trio - Look Up
The Charles Gayle Trio - Look Up

Look Up

The Charles Gayle Trio

ESP-Disc - ESP4070

Available from ESP-Disc's online store.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Noise music is a highly distinctive genre well removed from kinship with most any other stripe of the sonic arts. Nominally jazz but more a neoclassical creature that cohabitated with the underbelly and overmind of jazz, it actually reflects a psycho-social consciousness freed from rules but not from aesthetics, and that's the key so many critics have been searching for and not finding. That's also the element separating the poseurs from the authentics, and Charles Gayle is most definitely an authentic. What his ilk of 'songsmith' did was take the Mingus / Parker / Monk / etc. era and mutate it miles further. Coltrane remains without question the true center of the cyclone, but Rollins, Dolphy, Braxton, Sun Ra, and others imprinted from John and then headed for the stars…or maybe even hell, as many will aver and I will not argue, because music like this is a devilishly heady madhouse. Or is it?

Gayle (sax, clarinet, vocals) and his compeers, Michael Bisio on bass and powerhouse Micheal Wimberly on drums, set up a glorious racket that actually bases in the same religious sentiment Coltrane and Ayler beatifed. I mentioned Hell, and even Gayle admits that others will hear different things in his work, but, as critic Russ Musto says in the 10-page liner booklet, one should be very careful of attributing even the howling tempsets that dominate much of the material here to rage and anger 'cause those emotions aren't at all what Gayle is laying before us. Rather, he's mapping geographies never before so richly illuminated as well as psychologies transcending human norms by many degrees. So, where the extraordinary Alpha is a furiously beautiful commotion, Homage to Albert Ayler is much more restrained and even somewhat melodic. This isn't to say the cut is mannered, it isn't, and Gayle frequently riffs off into sidepockets expanding the cut's sentiments broadly.

The art of this art lies in its topographies. One of the LPs that finally got me into a precursor groove was Barre Phillips' Mountainscapes, and that slab was most decidedly a new terrain for those of us acclimated to tamer venues. Look Up goes much further, even when quiet, as in Bisio's hypnotizing solo in I Remember Dolphy, taking paths rarely, maybe never, travelled, panoramas of things beyond our ken. This is even more sharply demonstrated when Wimberly takes his solo right after Bisio and heads right for the just-mentioned mountains' steep inclines and odd scrambling creatures. Gayle, though, is the heart of the ensemble and his freed-up sax is an extension of the wild gent's heart combined with brain and creative anarchism emitting a torrent of perpetually riveting performances.

Now for the surprise: this was recorded in Santa Monica, California, in 1994, sounds like it was captured yesterday, and will be just as alive, vital, and timeless 100 years from now. I doubt humanity will have evolved sufficiently in that century to allow material like Gayle's to become normal, passe, or even antiquated. We just don't move forward that quickly.

Track List:

  • Alpha
  • Homage to Eric Ayler
  • I Remember Dolphy (Eric Dolphy)
  • In the Name of the Father
  • The Book of Revelation
All songs by Charles Gayle.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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