Charles Gayle

Unto I Am

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The first completely solo Charles Gayle recording was recorded during a break in the Victoriaville Festival in 1994. Gayle went into a Montréal studio and played tenor on three tracks and bass clarinet on one, and preached while accompanying himself on drums on one track and piano on another. What does it sound like? The tenor improvisations you can guess: it is a kind of bleating unto the heavens from the soul through the bell of the horn. This is no light statement; Gayle can play tenor saxophone with the best of them. He understands all of the intricacies of musical architecture implicitly, but it's of no consequence here. This is prayer. Indeed, all these pieces are prayer in its purest form: direct communication between Gayle and his God. It doesn't matter so much whether they are understood by the rest of humanity so much as they are heard and encouraged, in our way, to speak in the same manner. On "Eden Lost," Mr. Gayle is playing the piano and preaching fire and brimstone from the Bible. He is laying out the salvation plan of Jesus Christ while improvising like Keith Tippett more than Cecil Taylor. There is more openness in Gayle's playing than Taylor's, though at times it is just as intense. On "Pastures Color," Gayle is mining the territory first veined by Albert Ayler. In Gayle's phrasing are hymns and sacred songs interspersed with cries from the heart that express the bond of love between God and man -- in Gayle's view. Unto I Am may not be everybody's cup of shed blood, but there can be no denying that is inspired, divinely or otherwise.

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