Mark Corroto, All About Jazz (04/01/2018) ****
"Picking up any recording by the saxophonist (sometimes pianist) Charles Gayle always reminds me of the quote by actress Bette Davis' from the the film All About Eve (1950). After downing her martini in one gulp, Davis walks away, turns, and announces "fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride." Not bumpy as in uneven or rutted here, but strident and earth-shaking music. Live In Belgium is no exception to that narrative.

By now, the story of Gayle is well known. Homeless and playing his saxophone on the streets of New York for twenty years, his explosion onto the music scene in the later 1980s coincided with the DIY Downtown movement at the Knitting Factory and the discovery of free jazz by punk rock fans, including Henry Rollins. Funny thing about Gayle is, he has never abandoned his principles or debased his music. His edge remains razor sharp. This recording was made during a tour with Belgium-based Italian musicians Manolo Cabras and Giovani Barcella, both worthy complements to Gayle's approach.

Opening with the fiery improvisation "Chiaro Sguardo," the trio attempts to catch lightning in a bottle or are they just burning off any residue and chasing the nonbelievers from the club? Maybe, but that is just a gross oversimplification. Gayle, like brother Albert Ayler before, has a way of raising intensity by stripping music down to its essence. "Di Piccola Taglia" trickles then pours energy music over the crowd as a ritual of emptying. The piece finishes with Barcella's drum solo and the next track is a solo piece from Cabras' bass. It is quite obvious these three have created a mutual trust and friendship as the camaraderie is perceptible. The trio doesn't so much cover John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" on "Steps," as recontextualize it within the free jazz realm. He has taken on the classic composition on three previous recordings, and like those outings, he liberates Trane's technical exercise from its moorings to launch the music into the stratosphere. Like Anthony Braxton, Gayle sets his saxophone down to play piano. On "Dimmi" he explicates his musical theory by way of a more straightforward 88 keys. The passion remains here, and his technique is more expressive than Braxton."

Georges Tonla Briquet, Jazzhalo (28/11/2017)
"Drie tenoren uit de improvisatiescene live opgenomen, het kan haast niet anders dan leiden tot een geconditioneerde energiestroom. Dat is deze 'Live in Belgium' uiteindelijk ook.

De Italiaanse drummer Giovanni Barcella is al bijna twee decennia een vaste waarde in het luik van de Belgische jazzscene waar improvisatie de voornaamste leidraad vormt. Idem voor zijn landgenoot bassist Manolo Cabras die eenzelfde reputatie opbouwde. Saxofonist Charles Gayle is op zijn beurt een vrijbuiter die sinds eind jaren tachtig bekend geraakte door zijn niet-conformistische stijl.

Januari 2015 waren de drie samen te gast in ons land. Een avond in De Werf (Brugge) en een avond in het Brusselse alternatieve kunstencentrum Recyclart. Zeker wie op deze laatste plek al eens over de vloer komt, weet dat er nooit hapklare muziekjes door de luidsprekers klinken. Ook niet op die bewuste avond. Een en ander kan je horen op deze cd waarop uittreksels van beide concerten aan elkaar geplakt werden.

Niet verwittigde luisteraars missen meteen de rit. Van bij de eerste noten creëren de drie een big bang. Gayle blijft onophoudelijk het vuur aan de lont steken terwijl zijn kompanen hem continu aanmoedigen. In twee passages worden volume en aanvalstactiek wat getemperd zoals tijdens de bassolo met strijkstok ('Sempre') en op het moment dat Gayle achter de piano plaatsneemt ('Dimmi'). Ook de afsluiter 'Tears' getuigt van een zekere vorm van sereniteit.

Free maar nooit vrijblijvend, helemaal à la Albert Ayler. Ook voor fans van Cortex en Mostly Other People Do The Killing. Uitgebracht in een goudkleurige hoes met artwork van Dries Verstraete."

Tim, (18/11/2017)
"This is an exciting free jazz album featuring Charles Gayle on tenor saxophone and piano, Giovani Barcella on drums and percussion and Manolo Cabras on bass. The music presented here was selected from the live concerts in Brussels in January 2015. At nearly eighty, Gayle is playing as strongly and inventively as ever, blowing swift winds of raw tenor and rippling piano over ripe bass and drums. The album opens with "Chiaro Sguardo" which is an excellent track where taut elastic bass and a strong rhythmic sense give Gayle the support he needs to take flight in a blustery and immediate tenor saxophone solo. Gayle has led a difficult life from Buffalo to the streets and then to a hard won respect as an elder statesman of modern jazz, and that pain, strife and grace all come through in his playing. The music plows forth in an exciting fashion with rolling drums and scouring saxophone held together by excellent bass playing. There is a direct and uninhibited sensibility to their playing and the act of improvisation, a connection to each other and the act of spontaneous creation. "Tears" shows Gayle playing in a slow and scouring mode, showing kinship with the early sixties recordings of Albert Ayler, and he plows this fertile soil amidst fractured and uncertain bass and drums which allow him the freedom to express himself in such a way. The music is deeply emotional, it cries and sobs in a harrowing manner, but maintains a deeps sense of dignity throughout. The trio comes out hard again on "Di Piccola Taglia," returning to a fast paced collective improvisation, and it is an exciting meeting with their combined energy propelling the musicians, as a full band forward as they play aggressive free jazz, with Gayle encouraged by Cabras and Barcella to really dig in. Tenor, bass and drums rhythmically connected in the fray, setting off wildly screaming tenor saxophone solos, before Gayle steps aside for a nice drum interlude to end the selection. He takes to the piano on "Dimmi" playing in a spiritedly nimble manner that works well with snatches of cymbals and deeply rooted bass playing. Gayle is a natural at the piano, and indeed it was his first instrument as a young man. The influence of Bud Powell, Monk and Cecil Taylor bubble up in his sound, but it is clearly his own vision that leads the group into perilous open territory and through the other side in grand fashion. "Steps" hints at the John Coltrane classic "Giant Steps" in the theme Gayle establishes on saxophone, but he quickly moves into a driving improvisation, pulling the bassist and drummer with him into the slipstream. Gayle roars into the mix, and the trio makes for a perfect vehicle for exploring this fast paced modern jazz, grounded in a classic form. There is a frenetic interplay between the saxophone and drums, creating a very exciting rhythmic framework. The musicians are deeply committed to their art and the cooperative approach keeps the music intact, and this leads to a fine conclusion of a very exciting and rewarding recording."

Ken Waxman, Jazzword (11/11/2017)
"At 78, tenor saxophonist Charles Gayle is arguably the last living avatar of all-consuming Free Jazz, which during the 1960s and 1970s was expressed with burning zeal by figures such as John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Frank Wright. While he has tempered his program to include snatches of standards and his more conciliatory piano playing, like an enlightened devotee, Gayle is able to bring into his sanctified orbit any associates with whom he plays. Live in Belgium is a case in point. Throughout Belgium-domiciled Italians, bassist Manolo Cabras and drummer Giovanni Barcella follow Gayle's sonic pilgrimage as effectively as if he was Ayler and they Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray.

This doesn't diminish the contributions of either player. But with the drummer having played with many advanced American and Continental players ranging from bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel to pianist Bobby Few; and the bassist having worked with another cross section including drummer/pianist Chris Joris and pianist Erik Vermeulen, they're sophisticated enough to showcase the featured performer's ideas while only bringing attention to themselves if needed. A rest stop on the Gayle crusade, Cabras has "Sempre" all to himself. On it, his patterns reflect the subtle colors of contemporary notated expression, Jazz-like sways are propelled by strings that appear to be stripped to bare wires. "Di piccola taglia", where the saxophonist pierces the nearly opaque pulse with some Aylerican high-register bugle-calls and low-pitched howls, gives the drummer a respite from boiling accompaniment for a solo.

Bomb-dropping and cymbal shaking, Barcella's whacks and pops effectively bridge the gap between tonal and atonal, and keep the fiery performance ambulatory. Gayle's jerky keyboard musing which mate night club-like comping with dynamic Energy music tropes sometimes causes the busy percussion to rein in his vigorous beats, especially when Gayle appears to be quoting "Taker the A Train" as one finale.

Gayle's oblique variant on "Giant Steps", entitled "Steps" and the concluding version of "Tears (la parola chira)" show that the American's mastery includes historical as well as freer sounds. "Steps" is traditional enough to have the drummer and saxophonist trading fours at the end. Also, in the midst of an exercise in renal growling on an earlier tune, Gayle makes an oblique defence to "Mr. P.C." More persuasively when the balladic "Tears" is expressed with limpid reed timbres buoyed by double stops from the bassist, shards of Italian and French chansons enter Gayle's evocative performance.

Live in Belgium proves that a committed fabulist like Gayle can create high-quality and sometimes unanticipated sounds no matter the situation, the place and the associates. Having two simpatico players like Cabras and Barcella on hand though intensifies the program."

Philippe Elhem, LeVif Focus (26/05/2017)
"Hérault d'un expressionnisme free qui viendra, à la fin des années 80, bousculer l'académisme révisionniste et triomphant de l'époque, le saxophoniste et pianiste Charles Gayle fut ce qu'on appelle "a late bloomer". Longtemps musicien de rue, il ne publie son premier disque qu'à 48 ans, en 1988. Enregistré en 2015, ce Live in Belgium (où il est entouré du bassiste Manolo Cabras et du magistral batteur Giovanni Barcella), contient sept titres, tous improvisés, dont le sommet se nomme Giant Steps (rebaptisé Steps), qu'il revisite à travers une version magistralement cabossée en un hommage sincère à Coltrane, une de ses influences essentielles avec Albert Ayler, même si Gayle ne peut être confondu avec personne d'autre que lui-même."

Joe, Hatenablog (12/05/2017)
"リビングレジェンド、フリージャズ界の至宝、枕詞は何でもいいのだが、チャールズ・ゲイルの最新作である。ゲイル以外の2人はいずれもイタリア系だろうか。録音は2015年1月、2年以上前になるが、前作「Live at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz」が14年5月録音だったから、CD作品としてはゲイルの最新録音となる(デジタル作品では、OTOROKU の「Charles Gayle / Roger Turner / John Edwards 26.05.15」がある。昨年3月19日参照)。なおこのメンバーでつい2週間前にもパリでライブをやっていて、今も活動意欲は衰えていないようだ(下記動画参照)。とはいっても、ゲイルもさすがにパワーが落ちたのか、本作は7曲40分と各演奏は短く、サックスを休んでいる時間やピアノ演奏の比重も増している感があるが、いやいやいやいや、例えば2度演奏される「Tears」という曲の冒頭、たった一音で魂が震えるような背筋が凍るような頭が冴えるような胸が一杯になるような感動を味わわせてくれる圧倒的なサックスの音は健在である。そんな音楽家は今も昔もそうはいない。もしアルバート・アイラーが順当に年を重ねていたらそうであったかもしれない、そんな凄い音である。しかも一音で終わりじゃない。その音でずっと吹き続けるのだ。1939年2月生まれだから御年78歳(録音時75歳)。ジャズ史を振り返ってみると、こんな凄い音を発しながら長生きできた人は実はほとんどいない。だから往時から衰えたとはいっても、こうして吹き続けてくれていることに(ゲイルの信条にあやかって言えば)神に感謝、なのである。 ところで今回、ゲイルのピアノプレイが凄く良い、と感じた。いつもはサックス演奏の箸休めぐらいの認識だったのだが、深く反省せねばならない。"