Courtesy of Carbon Records

Carbon Records



Arthur Doyle is an underground superstar. Whether or not he ever sees the mainstream light of day depends largely on a practically backwards in time, jazz media, a couldn't find true artistry with two hands and a flashlight, major labels, and a culture that seems to have turned its back on improvised anything. So hopes here at the Weekly Roadshow are not high that we will be seeing a Doyle bin card at Tower Records anytime soon. But there is a beauty of a revelation called the internet and if you are so inclined and seek avant gems, find some Doyle. I first got wind of Doyle at a Berkeley used record store. I picked up a couple of CDs for a fiver and was blown away. The saxophonist can blow a horn and so it was mystifying to me that I never saw Doyle mentioned in any of the traditional and even not-so-traditional jazz rags. That is when the Roadshow takes on the cause. We tracked down Doyle and he sat down with the Weekly and the following is his take, unedited and in his own words.

FRED JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.

ARTHUR DOYLE: At first, when I was about three or four, I saw Louis Armstrong on TV and then Duke Ellington. I guess Louis Armstrong was my first influence. When I was a kid, I wanted to write him and tell him to send me a trumpet so I could play the same like him. I saw Duke Ellington on TV and he was my major influence also. I went to high school in Birmingham, Alabama and I first jazz record was Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and Miles Smiles that I got through a record club. My father always bought a record on Fridays because he listened to jazz too. I just wanted to play and sound like John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins.

FJ: How extensive was John Coltrane's influence earlier in your development?

ARTHUR DOYLE: Well, I think John Coltrane is what you call one of the Messiahs. John Coltrane played sheets of sounds. The first record I had of John Coltrane was Blue Train, no, the first time I heard John Coltrane was Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. I thought that was how the tenor saxophone was supposed to sound like, him, Sonny Rollins, Wardell Gray, Coleman Hawkins, people like that, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, people like that, Charles Lloyd also on flute.

FJ: Outside of Coltrane, who has been the greatest inspiration to Arthur Doyle?

ARTHUR DOYLE: Allah has had the biggest impact on my life, God the Creator, also Jesus and everybody else, and then my mother and father, brothers and sisters.

FJ: How do you approach playing the saxophone?

ARTHUR DOYLE: Well, it is shades and softness and loudness, microtone, larger than a whole step and smaller than a half step. Recently, I have been trying to incorporate the European system, Fred. That is a system that I developed. Right now, I am playing a lot with shades, loudness and softness, microtone, larger than a whole step, smaller than a half step. That is what I am into now. A lot of it incorporates scales and arpeggios and stuff like that.

FJ: Is it correct to describe your music as free jazz?

ARTHUR DOYLE: I think so. A good description of what I am doing right now is free jazz/soul music.

FJ: Why do you not just play bebop or post bop in the tradition of Dexter Gordon or Hank Mobley?

ARTHUR DOYLE: Well, I call that like being a slave. I am free, emancipated from that. But I also think there is room for improvement on that besides playing bebop. Sonny Simmons, I saw that Sonny Simmons has already passed that, he and Sonny Murray.

FJ: Are critics promoting the idea of slavery by harping on bebop?

ARTHUR DOYLE: I think so. I think they should be emancipated a little bit more and give free jazz musicians a little bit more credit.

FJ: When you get onto the bandstand, do you already have a preconceived notion of what you will be playing or do you just let loose?

ARTHUR DOYLE: Sometimes I do and sometimes it is a spiritual happening. Things just come. I don't know where they come from. Sometimes I sound like John Coltrane playing the horn, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, and Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler.

FJ: Can a white man play free jazz?

ARTHUR DOYLE: (Laughing) That's debatable you know, Fred. I am trying to think if I have heard of any that could play free jazz the way it ought to be played (laughing). Bebop, they had a lot of them that think they could play bebop, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, people like that. Bill Evans, the piano player, I think he could play a lot of bebop. I'm trying to think if I've heard of a white boy who can play free jazz the way a black musician play it anyway. I don't know if a white boy knows how to adlib. Like I said, Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, the piano player, Scott La Faro, they could adlib with bebop. But that is debatavle about a white boy playing free jazz.

FJ: Let's touch on your new release on Zugswang, A Prayer for Peace.

ARTHUR DOYLE: I have two new albums, one with Sonny Murray. Do you have the one with Sonny Murray? Well, two friends of mine called and said that they wanted to do a record with me. They had nobody else to play with that expressed themselves the way that I expressed myself on music. It is mostly moving into the free jazz type of thing.

FJ: And the future?

ARTHUR DOYLE: I'm going back to Paris, France, across to England and Belgium and maybe the Netherlands in February or March.

FJ: You are a cult hero around here, why aren't you in Down Beat? Why don't you have a story in Jazz Times?

ARTHUR DOYLE: (Laughing) That is a good question, Fred. I wonder why myself why I'm never in Down Beat. Back in the early Sixties, they used to write about me in Down Beat. I don't know why Down Beat won't write about me. I think, sometimes, it is to keep me down.

FJ: Is the mainstream afraid of Arthur Doyle?

ARTHUR DOYLE: I think so.

FJ: What do they fear?

ARTHUR DOYLE: Being emancipated. Being free and not slaves, slaves to the system.

FJ: Why do you continue on knowing you will never get the appreciation in your own country as you do in others?

ARTHUR DOYLE: I am trying to please the gods with my music. I think if I please the gods then my music will be happening one day, if not now, then when I die.

FJ: So Allah guides the music of Arthur Doyle?

ARTHUR DOYLE: Allah guides it, Fred. Allah guides it.

Fred Jung is the Editor-In-Chief and is wondering what is the Matrix. Email Him.