Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Charles Tyler's First Recording, 1966

After a significant association with Albert Ayler's band in 1965, where he was present on Ayler's magnificently raucous Bells, Charles Tyler put together a group of his own and entered the studios for ESP Disk in February 1966.

ESP has just reissued that album, simply titled Charles Tyler Ensemble, and though I haven't listened to it in years, the music jumped out of my speakers with a renewed freshness and intensity.

Tyler was then strictly on alto sax (he later also played baritone) and his playing at the time in part reflected Ayler's influence, notably in his sometime use of exaggerated vibrato and a heightened "speaking in tongues" quality of improvisation. The band had an unusual lineup of the great Henry Grimes on bass, Joel Friedman on cello, Charles Moffett on orchestral bells, a young Ronald Jackson on drums and of course Tyler himself.

They romp through four very spirited pieces with energy and determination. This is the free jazz playing of the first wave of players to follow in Ornette Coleman's wake, and the music often has a raw power, a brashness, a kind of unabashed vitalism that later incarnations of the music sometimes put to the side in favor of increased virtuosity and more sophisticated group interactions. The "pure," undiluted burst of free expression contained on this first Tyler recording breathes anew in the context of the world of 2009.

This may not make my top ten list of new thing jazz recordings from that first round of ESP releases. It does have staying power, though. Charles Tyler was to have a long, on-again off-again career before he passed from this earth in 1992. Nowhere did he sound more vital than here, in 1966.

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