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Charles Gayle


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Charles Gayle (born February 28, 1939) is a free jazz saxophonist, pianist, bass clarinetist, and percussionist. He lives in New York.
Some of Gayle’s history is unclear. He was apparently homeless for roughly 20 years, playing saxophone on street corners and subway platforms around New York City. In 1988, he gained fame through a trio of albums recorded by a Swedish label, Silkheart Records. Since then he has become a major figure in free jazz, recording for labels including Black Saint, Knitting Factory Records, FMP, [1] and Clean Feed. He has also taught music at Bennington College.

Gayle’s music is spiritual, and heavily inspired by the Old and New Testaments. He has explicitly dedicated several albums to God. His childhood was influenced by religion, and his musical roots trace to black gospel music. After his church experiences, Gayle credits among his influences Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Thelonious Monk, and Art Tatum. He has performed and recorded with Cecil Taylor, William Parker, and Rashied Ali.
In 2001, Gayle recorded an album titled Jazz Solo Piano. This disc consisted mostly of straightforward jazz standards, and is considered a response to critics who charge that free jazz musicians cannot play bebop. In 2006, Gayle followed up with a second album of solo piano, this time featuring original material, titled Time Zones.

Selected Discography

As leader:
Spirits Before (Silkheart, 1988)
Touchin’ on Trane (FMP, 1991)
Repent (Knitting Factory, 1992)
Translations (Silkheart, 1993)
Raining Fire (Silkheart, 1993)
More Live at the Knitting Factory (Knitting Factory, 1993)


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