Ancient of Days

LABELS: Knitting Factory
ALBUM TITLE: Charles Gayle
PERFORMER: Charles Gayle (ts, p), Hank Johnson (p), Juni Booth (b), Michael Kimberly (d)


Today they call it ‘Ecstasy Jazz’, but for Ware and Parker, survivors of the Seventies New York loft revolution, it confers a kind of recognition on their music after sticking it out through decades of poverty and public indifference.

Yet this music, whose starting point is the rugged mien of final-period John Coltrane, has had to confront the proposition that there comes a point when the shock ceases to be a shock and the new is no longer new. Indeed, few have succeeded in sustaining the avant-garde idealism of the late Sixties without submitting to rationalisation.

However, Ware and Gayle have built on the spirit of the past without becoming claimed by squeakaphonics and sundry textural devices, relying instead on a high degree of executive fluency and an amount of structure that was often absent from zealous ‘New Thing’ reformers.


Ware works with a set group, which has remained together since 1988 until Brown recently replaced William Parker. Consequently there is a degree of group cohesion that Gayle, whose records with ad hoc ensembles, lacks. The compensation is his famed hyperthyroid intensity, yet both, in their own quite different ways, remind us that great art is meant to disturb, not reassure. Stuart Nicholson