Charles Gayle Biography

28 February 1939, Buffalo, New York, USA. While working in industry, Gayle studied piano in his spare time. Eventually taking up the tenor saxophone, he became involved in the New York avant garde movement of the 60s. At the end of the decade he was back in his home town but returned to New York where for the next decade he often scuffled for work, sometimes playing in obscure venues and even in the subway. He worked briefly with Sunny Murray and in 1984 was heard by Peter Kowald who, recognizing a fellow free improvising spirit, invited him to visit Europe. During the late 80s and early 90s, Gayle played in various US and European locations, and also made records under his own name and in a trio with William Parker and Rashied Ali. A forceful, dramatic player in the ferocious sound-and-fury tradition of New York’s loft scene, Gayle is also very effective when he plays bass clarinet. He has continued to play piano occasionally, albeit less successfully than when he appears on reed instruments. His multi-instrumental abilities were displayed on Unto I Am, on which he plays all three of his regular instruments together with the drums.

Gayle’s playing, which initially is somewhat reminiscent of Albert Ayler’s, is forceful and demanding of listener and performer alike as it proceeds with relentless intensity. With repeated hearings, however, the impressions of Ayler recede, revealing Gayle to be an endlessly inventive improviser who is very much his own man. Nevertheless, a newcomer to Gayle’s work might well find it useful to test the waters with the relative orthodoxy of Ancient Of Days rather than dive right in to the storm-tossed oceans of sound that suffuse most of his work.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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