This is Charles' debut for Knitting Factory Records, following his highly documented departure from the "conventional life" of his homelessness in Buffalo to play sax on the streets of New York. A drastically simplified version of events that does little to tell the tale of a cathartic, out-playing, free jazz masterpiece.
But soon Charles Gayle's overwhelming individuality and originality prevailed.
Structurally, Gayle differs from Ayler by not opening his tunes with a simple march like riff, and then building up to a trance. Gayle's opening sound is already in the highest register of the tenor, with the bass and drums playing supportive polyrhythems.
There is never a hint of "standard" melody or harmony. So, Imagine the effect of 75 minutes of non-stop trance-like energy playing, relentless rhythms and sounds...
Gayle's sound is also uniquely his own. It is actually a soft sound, but very penetrating. I have never heard anyone express the sounds of urban craziness as well as Gayle. In this I see him as top musician I have ever heard.
Listening to Gayle may be difficult to people who have not heard Coltrane's 1965-1967 works, Albert Ayler, Pharoe Sanders, David S. Ware. But I believe that anyone who is open to receive what Gayle offers, will only gain from the experience. This is a music of change, movement and spirit. To me it is very valuable and I recommend it to anyone willing to embark on this journey.
But still, Charles Gayle plays free - and very dissonant - music that's heavier than any music I have every heard. And I enjoy some heavy guitar-based music, but honestly I don't think the guitar as an instrument is capable of producing sounds that reach the relentless intensity that Gayle uses his saxophone to produce. Perhaps because the sax creates a sound based upon human breath, there is something about the feeling of this music that sounds much more personal, and occasionally spiritual, than artificially distorted guitar music could ever sound. Of course to 99% of the population music that is this dissonant sounds like horrible screaming and likely evokes nothing but revulsion, and perhaps in this way this kind of music is like heavy rock music.
I've read things that make me think Charles Gayle is crazy pro-life religous zealot. I also read an interview with him where he came off a pretty intelligent and thoughtful guy (of course with some eccentricities). But then it really doesn't matter. What matters is this music goes places that I've never heard music go, and there is no one who plays this style of tenor saxophone with as much relentless intensity as Charles Gayle does. I believe that anyone interested in music as I've described would be pleased by this CD, even at the out-of-print price this is going for.