Born: June 26, 1944 | Died: January 25, 2014 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Saxophonist/flutist/singer Arthur Doyle is hardly alone in his position as a marginal jazz figure. In an art form known for its many trials and tribulations (both artistic and financial), Doyle hasn't made his situation any easier by attempting to carve a singular path along the music's outskirts. The fact that he has done so, however, is what makes his music so unique. Performing in a style he calls free jazz soul, Doyle combines the liberated freedom flights of the avant-garde with the gritty, gut-wrenching emotion of gospel and R&B.
The second of five children, Arthur Doyle was born in Birmingham, AL, on June 26, 1944. He attended college at Tennessee State University where he quickly built a circle of contacts in the Nashville music scene, playing with Louis Smith (Horace Silver) and Walter Miller (Sun Ra). Following brief stints in Detroit, playing in a big band led by Charles Moore, and back home in Alabama with R&B outfit Johnny Jones & the King Casuals, Doyle left for New York at the age of 23.
Still essentially a bop player, Doyle quickly became acclimated to the more radical environment surrounding the city's bustling loft scene. Shortly after his arrival, the saxophonist hooked up with drummer Milford Graves and began sitting in on dates with Pharaoh Sanders and Sun Ra's Arkestra. Declining a possible job with the latter outfit, Doyle instead joined a small combo led by Noah Howard, performing on the sessions that produced The Black Ark (1969).
Concerted efforts by jazz's mainstream to stifle the practitioners of the new thing took their toll, however, and Doyle vanished from the scene from 1972-1974. He would not appear on an album again until 1976, ending a seven-year period of recorded silence with his blazing tenor work on Graves' Babi Music. The following year, he led a quintet of his own in a performance at a New York loft dubbed the Brook. The results were documented on his landmark Alabama Feeling and released in a limited pressing of 1000 copies.
Amongst the crowd that night was an admiring guitarist named Rudolph Grey. The pair met that evening and soon devised plans for an outfit of their own. Debuting at Max's Kansas City as the Blue Humans, they proceeded to play a series of New York dates with drummer Beaver Harris. Doyle abandoned the project shortly after, the increasingly bleak situation for free jazz players in the states convincing him to move to Paris in 1982.
Not long after his arrival, however, the saxophonist was arrested on false charges, spending the next five years in prison. Horn-less, Doyle wrote prolifically nonetheless, producing the first compositions for his songbook: a massive, 300-piece aural memoir. Once released, Doyle returned to New York where he recorded the new music, capturing his hollers, shouts, and singing (along with his flute and tenor work) in gritty fidelity on a boombox. These recordings subsequently appeared on the albums Plays and Sings from the Songbook (1992), Songwriter (1994), and Do the Breakdown (1997).
The 1990s saw Doyle performing with a number of different musicians from the jazz and improv schools including bassist Wilber Morris, drummers Rashid Bakr and Sunny Murray, and guitarists Keiji Haino, Thurston Moore, and old spar Rudolph Grey. The first studio recordings since his 1969 date with Howard emerged as well: Dawn of a New Vibration (with Murray) and Prayer for Peace (with Jim Linton and Scott Rodziczak).
Source: Nathan Bush