Charles Gayle | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Charles Gayle

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Cecil Taylor's favorite saxophonist makes his Chicago debut. As that recommendation might suggest, Charles Gayle plays free jazz--very free jazz--and he does so unrepentantly, with storm-wind assaults on hell's-loose rhythms, rubato wanderings at slow tempos, and plenty of upper-register cries in all cases. Gayle is known as the most ferocious of "energy" players, launching into each piece of improvisation like a starving man let loose at a buffet. But while he deserves his reputation for spectacular and sustained bursts of unrestrained energy, Gayle's better recordings reveal him as something more than a free jazz marathon man; in particular, the recent Touchin' on Trane (FMP Records) brims with some of the most excitingly organized freedom since the mid-60s glory days of Coltrane and Albert Ayler. Gayle doesn't play "tunes," and if that's a concern for you, stay away; as one might expect from a man who has remained a homeless New York street musician for most of the last 20 years, this music doesn't offer much of the security found in familiar melodies and cozy chord sequences. Gayle's trio in Chicago will feature bassist Harrison Bankhead--whose long resume of free-jazz gigs makes him a natural choice--and drummer Paul Wertico, a choice that will surprise many. But despite his tightly reined percussion work for the Pat Metheny Group, Wertico plays free better than almost anyone, and he's one of the few drummers who can accelerate to maximum warp as quickly as Gayle. Saturday, 9 PM, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.

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