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Buell Neidlinger: Gayle Force

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Cut in drummer John Bergamo’s Buffalo, N.Y., living room just over half a century ago, these five tracks-four of them entirely improvised-are of tremendous historical interest. Although bassist Buell Neidlinger is the nominal leader and the man running the recorder, the titular “Gayle” is the biggest draw: tenor saxophonist Charles Gayle, whose playing is captured on tape here for the first time, 23 years before the release of his debut studio album. (In the interim, he spent more than a decade living on the streets of New York and blowing his horn for spare change.)

So what did the young Gayle sound like? Pretty much exactly as you’d expect given the year (1965): big, bold and brash; heavily indebted to Ornette, Trane and Ayler; specializing in searingly fast arpeggios, dying-chicken shrieks and raspy overblowing. The frenzy gets tiring before long, but as the album progresses, Gayle shows a few different sides as well. A run through “Lonely Woman” is surprisingly meditative, and there are distinct flashes of whimsy in “Olden Gearings.” All the while, Bergamo provides skittering counterpoint in the classic Rashied Ali manner.

As for Neidlinger, the only other player, he’s hard to hear whenever Gayle gets going. But his solo spots are always engaging, particularly the one at the beginning of “Bassololow,” in which he seamlessly alternates between arco and pizzicato. The whole trio catches the most fire on “Very Fast” and “Even Faster,” which offer up aggression and humor in roughly equal measure. And speaking of humor, one presumes Neidlinger came up with the wonderful track titles, which are as plainly descriptive as they are chuckle-inducing.

Originally Published