Sunday, March 30, 2008



The Final Nite & Other Poems: Complete Notes from a Charles Gayle Notebook 1987-2006 by Steve Dalachinsky
(Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006)


Listening to Charles Gayle play is like having someone throw a bucket of water on your face.
               -Phil Freeman, New York is Now

it’s like dying & going to heaven even there,
something like a flower with thorns,
is set in front of you – so the pleasure is modified to a walk –
not cautionary but certainly
not applicable to your gorgeous state of mind-body ecstasy –
a torn knee cap & an angelic voice of torture –
               -Steve Dalachinsky

With The Final Nite & Other Poems: Complete Notes from a Charles Gayle Notebook 1987-2006, Steve Dalachinsky offers up a scrapbook collection of jottings written while in attendance at live performances and recording sessions of saxophonist Charles Gayle. As Dalachinsky writes in his introduction, “I’ve included every poem written under these circumstances… successful or not… with little or no editing.” Dalachinsky provides notes at the top of every entry usually giving the date and location of the performance along with additional remarks here and there such as Ted Joans being present, or Gayle playing the piano rather than his saxophone. When Dalachinsky hits his mark the precision is right on. While capturing the moment of his listening, Dalachinsky transcends a mundane accounting of his factual whereabouts into a headier contemplative statement of calling.
Charles Gayle Trio (William Parker – bass, Mike Winderly – drums)
@ The Knitting Factory set 1

A secular bewilderness

without a table to rest
my elbows on
without a crowd of
spaces to listen to the birds between
there is good cause to say
in the midst of a few

i go back to a dream i had
the other night
in which the “OTHERS” were
& wake with jump into
day light & its
passage thru the blooming
yellow dwarf daffodils
on the sill

it was not as cold as
usual &
i had a sense of
within my thought &
atrophy within my

without a starting point
from outside
my inside sees little
to go on
& the beams across the roof
of my eyes
slant thru my drowsiness
small shafts & splinters of a
whyfor –

because whatever lords
left the bills unpaid
in a circle of calling
when Sabbath eve had drawn
to a close
i found myself
disclosing the top of my head
& throwing religious raiment
to the floor
& bending to
the brief light
like a flower &
singing thru the rain
like a bird.

The difficult assertion to make is that Dalachinsky captures the spirit of Gayle’s music. Readers who approach this volume with any expectation of energy transfer from the music into the writing may be disappointed. Dalachinsky does however have moments where he chases after the rhythms of Gale’s performance, combining a traditional sense of conveying ‘meaning’ in the writing with an exploration of pushing the tonal qualities of speech. [Editor's Note: Some of the caesuras and indentations in quoted poem excerpts may not be exactly replicated due to Blogger format.]
Charles Gayle Trio (Tom Abbs – bass, Rashid Baker – drums)
@ Tonic

Gayle plays extended alto sax

to see              with Vision
have a                Vision
envision              A future free to Envision –
minutes & monuments
& election fraud
waiting on the corner can be a dangerous thing
steeping off the corner can be a dangerous thing              (Game: how
many words can YOU
standing on the corner can be a dangerous thing
Make from the word
sitting in the corner can be a dangerous thing
cornered in the corner
it’s about intervals about changing the squiggly lines into
talatelateslainstainrainnerve~~~~~~~~~ venttrialtrailsalesailtalev-
lying in a corner is unsafe
crouching in a corner is unsafe
hiding in a corner is unsafe
standing in a corner is unsafe
` sleeping in a corner is unsafe
crossing @ the corner                look both ways
loafing lurking hanging……

vealearlrealeartearslatelateeatletratare atalterlatertarleanlearnart.

He sets the mood and direction of the piece, that is, the conception of having a vision and following through with it. Then slams words together, creating a jumble of articulate incoherence moving away from meaning towards sound. Dalachinsky comes closest here to capturing the thrust of the notes Gayle releases. Ending on the demand – when you separate the last eight letters into two words – ‘learn art.’ It’s a directive. A way through the predicament of being alive, feel the thrust of everything rushing through you and release it: bear witness.

This book is Dalachinsky’s (as it should be) far more than Gayle’s. It’s an appreciation of the music, but its focus and preoccupation is primarily with Dalachinsky himself. It’s doubtful that either of them would have it any other way. Dalachinsky matches Gayle in so far that he puts himself on the line as much as Gayle does in his performances. Each of them expresses emotions and feelings without regret or reflection—they’re exploring inner complexions as they go—controversial as the subject matter may be.
Charles Gayle Trio
@ The Knitting Factory

Gayle gives his first anti-abortion speech


there’s need
there’s greed
               a chair to sit down on
plants i.e. trees                take in carbon dioxide
                              & give off oxygen
                                           people toot their horns

is anything more important than a human life?
           age old question           founded on guilt

embryo in electric chair
black/white cellular                murder
               all part of                same thing
heard all before
               baby         mommy           sapling
               grave disappointments
murder is murder
               gabriel you know where it’s going
no – fact is you don’t

oh so easy if we really knew our right from wrong
so easy to live & not breathe
wind pipe food pipe oil pipe log cabin
                                           i choke on them all

i am against abortion but pro choice
if circumstances are weighed
& decisions are based on belief & will
               desire & need
but murder is murder
                              i am against murder but pro choice

                              go figure that one out

we think left - been left

                                          & as dishonest as the rest

               no solo outstrips a long term plan

there’s need &
there’s greed
                                           cymbal & chance

                                             god speed!!!!!

Dalachinsky gives an honest account, supplying at least a partial record of Gayle’s character. He doesn’t judge the matter but allows Gayle’s words to speak as his own. It’s a generous service, catching the humane wishes that drive Gayle’s controversial perspective. After all, there’s no disengaging the artist from his or her perspective. The principles of the artist determine the approach they take to their art and drive the production of further work. There has to be an accompanying belief underlying it all which acts as support propelling the work along. For a man such as Gayle this isn’t a theory of practice but a basic principle of living.
Conversation with Gayle in my apt.

Charles Gayle wisdom

strip away ego – no right no wrong
different perceptions (egos) not about that
knowledge / WISDOM - find the truth of it
both become blank
don’t know anything
one’s own words can strip one’s ego

While there is the thought that if Dalachinsky had tended to his work a bit further, fine tuned it here and there, focusing his interest and talent, that Poetry, as such, would be better served. Of course this is ultimately an unfair judgment as it fails acknowledge the nature of Dalachinsky’s homage. Gayle’s performances can be uneven. They are improvisatory by nature, he may rant, he may not play his best, outside forces beyond his control may disrupt the performance, etc. … the point of Gayle’s playing is to attest to himself and the world as alive. To acknowledge and investigate the occurrence in a fixed event in time, throwing his whole self into it with abandon.
Charles Gayle Trio (Gerald Benson – bass, Gerlad Cleaver – drums)
@ The Knitting Factory

               Body & soul

“…… life is yours just for the taking.”

               he said – i just don’t feel like playing tonite
i’ve only felt like this once before

               i said – is it musical or personal

               he balled up his hand & pounded his chest lightly

in here – he said

               i said – sometimes when you don’t feel like playing’s
when you play the best

               & patting his forearm added – i’ll be here all nite

when it came time he played & played
                              & played
                                       for love
                                             he said wordlessly
for love

               i just kept thinking over & over again – it’s when you
               don’t want to
                                             that you often do it best

                              &          he         did
                                             he did

Dalachinsky responds and acknowledges the energy of Gayle’s performance. He’s writing towards the nugget of consciousness that brings brief realization to the forefront of experience, the matter at hand lying behind it all—every performance, every act, the impulse driving the living along. In the search for meaning behind living, artists take up the art which calls to them. Not to get beyond or point away from the world about them, but to embody the predicament of living to the fullest extent possible.
I’m not trying to play music –
I’m trying to prove a point.

               - Gayle


Patrick James Dunagan lives in San Francisco and works at the library of USF. Recent reviews have appeared in Artvoice (Buffalo), St. Mark's Poetry Project Newsletter, and Jacket. Poems recently appeared in Cannibal and One Less Magazine.

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