Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Arthur Doyle

My son tipped over one of my CD racks the other day. As I was cleaning up the mess, in the pile of "downtown" stuff along with the obligatory Zorn, Ribot, numerous Laswell projects, etc. I found two CDs with Arthur Doyle and Rudolph Grey. I remember buying them on eBay some eight years ago, but why?
Next day I was surfing the 'nets, and accidentally bumped into an album that features early Doyle playing:
For unrelenting screaming banshee saxophone, the septet includes tenor player Arthur Doyle. As the original album's liner notes have it, in words that can't be bettered, Doyle is "propelled throughout by an almost incoherent rage, a chaotic and murderous sound." This is written about Noah Howard's Black Ark, available at The Changing Same; great album, great blog, BTW.
So I figured the coincidence is an indication that I should share these.

These two LPs by Doyle are the missing link between the late 60's free jazz and NYC's No Wave scene of the late 70's (I never knew there was a link, let alone that it was missing). His collaborator on both of these releases, guitarist Rudolph Grey, is the person who introduced him to rock audience and booked their shows on the same bill as Glenn Branca, DNA, Mars, and other skronk-mongerers.

Arthur Doyle bio from AMG

Arthur Doyle Quartet - Live at the Cooler
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1. Spiritual Healing
2. Flue Song
3. Noah Black Ark

AMG on the Blue Humans: The Blue Humans is the unit name given to any performance led by improvisational guitarist Rudolph Grey. (Members have included reedsman Arthur Doyle, guitarist Alan Licht, drummers Beaver Harris and Tom Surgal, and tenor saxophonist Jim Sauter.) Bridging the gap between free jazz and downtown art noise (and with records as likely to be released on a punk label as on a jazz imprint), Grey is far more interested in textures and sound patterns than conventional notes, chords, and melodies, but his improvisatory performances have a structural logic and grace to them that makes them more interesting than some of the aimless Strat splat that gets passed off as experimentation.
The famously taciturn Grey basically refuses to answer any questions about his past and admits to no influences. Grey first appeared on the post-punk New York art scene in the late '70s, forming the short-lived Red Transistor with maniac guitar terrorist Von LMO. Although the duo lasted barely a year, they were an important formative influence on the nascent no wave scene percolating in the East Village. (Grey participated in that short-lived scene by playing briefly in Mars, one of its most extreme practitioners.) Grey then formed the Blue Humans in 1980, initially with Harris, a veteran free jazz drummer, and Doyle. (This lineup was finally documented on disc with 1995's Live NY 1980.) A Blue Humans performance can be anything from a duo to a four-piece, but Grey seems to prefer the trio format above others. The Blue Humans' albums and EPs are primarily live recordings of single extended improvisations such as 1988's Incandescense (recorded during an opening set for Sonic Youth at CBGB) and 1990's To Higher Time, but there's also a studio album produced by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, 1993's Clear to Higher Time.

AMG review: This album is the earliest recording of the explosive free improvisation group led by guitarist Rudolph Grey, recorded live in New York with a lineup that featured the power of legendary free jazz drummer Beaver Harris behind Grey's corrosive feedback guitar. Free jazz saxophonist Arthur Doyle also appears through the smoke of guitar feedback, and speaker destruction is provided by Rudolph Grey, whose style is like a more aggressive and abrasive Sonny Sharrock. No wonder this post-punk free improvisation had a profound influence on Sonic Youth and later incarnations of the Blue Humans featured Thurston Moore on second guitar. Live NY 1980 is a quintessential recording of the no wave scene that abridged punk, free jazz, and noise music.

The Blue Humans - Live 1980
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Four untitled tracks


  1. Never heard of either of these but is someone plays as if "propelled throughout by an almost incoherent rage, a chaotic and murderous sound" is worth more than casual listening session. Thanks!
    Btw, quite a few of the Chet Baker links are dead.

  2. Thank you. This is just what I needed to blow the gunk out of my head