Denis Charles

A Scream for Charles Tyler

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Putting this record in the context of something other than itself is difficult. This is not a mere tribute record -- this is the recording of a gig at which saxophonist Charles Tyler should have been the leader. He died three days before, and the band thought that to play the festival date was important, to make the music go on. And one has to agree with them. One can hear the sheer heart poured forth in each of these selections after a poetic, grief-stricken introduction by drummer Dennis Charles (himself now deceased) and bassist Bernard Santacruz. The date was totally improvised, with guitarist Rémi Charmasson attempting to fill the enormous space vacated by Tyler. And valiant as this band is, it can't quite overcome its grief, cannot rise to the swirling melodic and harmonic inventions of Tyler, who believed that all music was possible in any given moment. When Tyler was in the band, his guitarist gave harmonic support while the saxophonist went off in search of the muse, so the weight on Charmasson is double and, from the sound of it, it is a crushing endurance test. He doesn't fail -- he just doesn't succeed. And in its fractured state, this band does manage some compelling music, such as the wonderfully spacious minor-key ride of "Marie in Wonderland," the bass-driven ballad-like structure called "Lovingly," or the semi-wailing "Behind the Mirror." It just never goes over the wave that Tyler took them past each and every time. And, in the end, Tyler himself makes a taped appearance with Santacruz and Antoine Lisolo for a brief minute and a half, and you can hear in full what's missing in the middle of stage. The effort was stellar and the music was flattering and meandering, but it offers solace and some satisfaction nonetheless.

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