Monday, June 11, 2012

Charles Tyler-Charles Tyler Ensemble; ESP Disc, 1993 reissue

"There remain indigenous practitioners amongst us who continue to ignite incalculable sigils. They brew ghosts, they place them in charged amulets, they give them as gifts for profane travellers to wear"
       --Will Alexander, from General Scatterings and Comment

Disaster Amnesiac's recent obsessive listening to Frank Wright led me on to another close associate of Albert Ayler, woodwinds player Charles Tyler.
Tyler's ESP debut, Charles Tyler Ensemble, features a sound that is quite close to that of Ayler. The liner notes for  the 1993 ESP re-issue CD tell the story of a man born on an Indian reservation, and of being an early, close friend of Ayler's. One wonders how much of an influence Tyler exerted on Ayler, and vice versa, given the latter's fascination with Native American themes in his titles. There is also a lot of similarity in the quality of their alto sounds: reedy, high, and otherworldly. Neither of these guys were trying to get an easy, breezy sound from their horns, and the question remains: "how much influence did they have on each other?" One doubts that there was any animosity, as Tyler was a featured member of Ayler's earliest ESP group. Tyler shreds the melodies apart, going inside of them with fast multi-phonic runs, often in higher registers.
Cellist Joel Friedman is a standout player on the recording. His solos are furious and abstract, energetic bursts that occur within all registers. It's as if he is trying to free the instrument from its previous timbres and give it entirely new ones.
Henry's Grimes's bass, though sharing much of the same registers as the cello, never steps on those of his stringed partner. Grimes seems to hang back a bit, to be happy with supporting Friedman, even to the point of stopping altogether.
Although he only plays on two of the recording's four tracks, Charles Moffett gives a defining sound to this release, using orchestra vibes for a shimmery, otherworldly sound, often reminiscent of Sun Ra's clavinet playing, but with even more percussive punch.
Ronald Shannon Jackson, who continues to lay down heavy Free Funk on huge kits, sounds, not exactly restrained on Charles Tyler Ensemble (especially on Lacy's Out East, a syncopated drumming tour de force), but in light of his later mastery, still in development. There are inklings of his later superb control and force, but at times he sounds somewhat at a loss, especially compared to contemporary Free practitioners such as Rashied Ali or Sunny Murray. Still, his touch on the record, lighter and quieter, provides plenty of space for the rest of the group to explore their tonal moves.
All that said Disaster Amnesiac feels compelled to state, the music on this recording is not noise. Of course, fans of Free Music will concur with that statement. In my Wright post, I described the influence of a strain of aesthetic judgement that would have most post-Bop music, and Free Jazz in particular, thrown out the window, to be ignored and derided, its practitioners forgotten. In large measure, they got their wish. To them I say (and Disaster Amnesiac realizes that it's spitting in the wind, but I want to say it anyway), music like this, while not (perhaps not) America's Classical Music, can easily been heard as a form of American chamber music. If one can't hear this small group, interacting with each others' lines, improvising on themes, and playing together, one probably is not so much listening as they are simply reacting.
To again quote poet Will Alexander, Tyler's sound is that of a "being who floats above the cinders of code, above the moat which surrounds philosophical encasement."  Alexander's words sum up what seems to have been  Albert Ayler and Charles Tylers' musical/spiritual intent with absolute clarity.
Perhaps you'll be inclined to listen and find some clarity of your own therein.

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