Free jazz icon Charles Gayle to perform at Skaņu Mežs festival

Free jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle will be performing at the Skaņu Mežs festival for adventurous music in Riga, Latvia on October 14. He will be joined onstage by british improvisors: drummer Roger Turner and bassist John Edwards – a long-time friend of the festival.
Charles Gayle blew down with hurricane force – the pun is too obvious – out of Buffalo. He drifted in and out of the first great free jazz scenes of the Sixties, playing with Pharoah, Archie Shepp, and other trailblazers. But he says now that his sound then was even more fiery and forceful than it is now, and he couldn’t get a recording date. He drifted. He became homeless. He lived as a squatter in an abandoned Lower East Side tenement. He found Jesus.
He kept playing. His music retained its hard industrial edge. It sent listeners through the wall. It busted them out of the day-to-day grind into a divine ecstasy. It lifted and uplifted. He developed a tremendous facility with the upper-upper register of the tenor saxophone, so that he could take his spiritual flights to their farthest reaches. He played wherever he could; his steadiest gig was in the New York subways.
Eventually lightning struck. In the late Eighties Silkheart Records recorded three discs him featuring Gayle’s ecstatic, holy holy tenor. One of them, the much-overlooked Always Born, paired him with the incomparable John Tchicai, a pairing that seemed problematic at the time but which worked much better than perhaps anyone was aware then.
After that work, and recordings, came a bit more steadily. For the enigmatic German FMP label he recorded the all-time classic Touchin’ on Trane with musicians as talented and passionate as he: bassist William Parker and drummer Rashied Ali, a living connection with the Coltrane legacy that Gayle so dynamically extends here. But this disc became something of an anomaly in the Gayle discography: most of the others were much more furious. Gut-wrenching, metal-tearing, pedal-to-the-floor music.
Much of it was magnificent: Testaments, Repent, and More Live at the Knitting Factory are outrageous, outlandish sonic assaults. Testaments has a rough lyricism that is captivating; the other two make adroit use of doubled strings from bassist Vattel Cherry and William Parker on cello.
On some discs Gayle himself plays viola, bass clarinet, other oddments. His bass clarinet solos are deeply felt and generally more conventionally lyrical than his tenor blasts. He plays it to particular effect on FMP’s Abiding Variations. But his chief double is piano, which he has played with increasing frequency and facility in recent years. He’s even planning a piano disc loaded with standards, which could change popular perceptions of him – as could the majestic and hard-won lyricism of his tenor playing on the recent Delivered and Ancient of Days.
John Edwards is a true virtuoso whose staggering range of techniques and boundless musical imagination have redefined the possibility of the double bass and dramatically expanded its role, whether playing solo or with others. Perpetually in demand, he has played with Evan Parker, Sunny Murray, Derek Bailey, Joe McPhee, Lol Coxhill, Peter Brötzmann, Mulatu Astatke and many others. He has visited the Skaņu Mežs festival already twice – once with Wadada Leo Smith and Mark Sanders, and once with Peter Brötzmann’s Mental Shake quartet.

Roger Turner
Over decades Roger Turner has brought the renowned volcanic power and finely honed precision of his drum work to ensembles that have often forged real connections with musicians both sides of the Atlantic. In addition he has worked extensively in the microscopic laboratory of the acoustic duo situation where he acquired a highly developed sense of detail and of dynamic control. One of that select group of world-class players who have collectively redefined the language of contemporary percussion. In Turner’s hands minute inflections of tension can shape the group’s musical direction and galvanise a new level of audience experience. To celebrate the fact that Mr. Turner turns 70 this year, Skaņu Mežs festival has invited him to play two concerts – one with the Gayle-Edwards-Turner trio and one in duo with Thomas Lehn.
This will be the 14th edition of Skaņu Mežs – the festival will happen on October 13-15 as well as November 12 and October 16 in Daugavpils.
Tickets to the festival can be purchased here:
The Skaņu Mežs festival is supported by the “Creative Europe” programme of the European Union, Ministry of Culture of Latvia, State Culture Capital Foundation, the Municipality of Riga, the Goethe-institut Riga, Trust for Mutual Understanding and Kulturkontakt Nord as well as iRobot and Red Bull Music Academy.


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