Charles Tyler

Folly Fun Magic Music

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Here is another of Charles Tyler's later recordings, made in France with a host of young cats enthralled to be playing with a bona fide '60s legend. Tyler as always is inspired and in good humor here. His music and arranging at its best soars to the same heights as Don Cherry's or Steve Lacy's or Dewey Redman's. And even with inexperienced sidemen, his music here soars. It's as if at the end of his life, Tyler was undergoing his own creative resurgence as a musician. The set begins here with "Ride of the Phantom Politician," dedicated to Wagner, and as you probably guessed, its opening melody quotes from the composer's "Ride of the Valkyries." But Tyler, twinned by bassist Bernard Santacruz, moves the middle eight into gorgeously melodic modal territory, invoking Eastern European folk songs, klezmer, and the blues in an attempt to set the record straight. His next piece, "Just Me Luck," with lovely guitar work by Remi Charmasson, quotes Bach's partitas, his court music, and his cello sonatas. What Tyler does with these bits isn't merely imitate them, he stretches them into heartbreakingly beautiful jazz balladry that is akin in spirit at least to Abdullah Ibrahim's. Tyler does this again and again, though the sources change -- they move from Shawnee Indian ballads and story songs to European and gypsy dance tunes to futuristic jazz as translated by P.T Barnum. In every case the approach is original and the attack soulful, without irony, artifice, bitterness, or cynicism. Folly Fun Magic Music may be the title of the album and one of its tunes, and it is fun. But more than that, it walks the edge of profundity.

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