The post New Thing lineage is a sacred thing. In the fields sown by Ayler and Coltrane and Sanders and Shepp, the music is free and flowing without ego but with purpose. It’s a judgment call of course, but the proponents are arguably few.
Without attaching too many words to it, it’s a style of playing that’s something spiritual, something other, a connectivity between the players and with the listener. And without overly delineating who’s in and who’s out, it’s certain that Gayle is a master of the form.
Deeply committed to free improvisation and the jazz tradition in all its manifestations, Gayle is a blazing saxophonist, a fluent pianist and, has more recently been playing the double bass. Here he is heard at his best, in classic form on the tenor horn with an exhilarating trio.
The title and cover here evoke a character Gayle took to portraying onstage back in the 1990s, a bit of social commentary using the familiar face of a sad clown (read Emmett Kelly or even Charlie Chaplin), using a tragic face with no comedic angle to reflect on his own homeless days. But the music within is all new, recorded in the studio this year with Gayle heard on tenor exclusively joined by longtime timekeeper Michael TA Thompson on drums and Larry Roland on bass.
To say that he recalls the pilgrims of free jazz is no small praise, but it’s not to lock him in the past. At 72, Gayle remains a vital force. The Streets are paved with some serious intentions.