Arthur Doyle

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Arthur Doyle
Doyle in 2011
Doyle in 2011
Background information
Born(1944-06-26)June 26, 1944
OriginBirmingham, Alabama, United States
DiedJanuary 25, 2014(2014-01-25) (aged 69)
GenresFree jazz, avant-garde jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instrument(s)Tenor saxophone, flute, recorder, bass clarinet, piano, vocals

Arthur Doyle (June 26, 1944 – January 25, 2014[1]) was an American jazz saxophonist, bass clarinettist, flutist, and vocalist who was best known for playing what he called "free jazz soul music".[2] Writer Phil Freeman described him as having "one of the fiercest, most unfettered saxophone styles in all of jazz", "a player so explosive that it seems like microphones and recording equipment can barely contain him".[3]


Arthur Doyle was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1944,[1] and was inspired to play music as child after watching Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington on television.[4] During his high school years, he began listening to Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins,[4] and picked up gigs as a saxophonist.[5] While still a teenager, he played with saxophonist Otto Ford and trumpeter Walter Miller (an associate of Sun Ra), and also played in R&B and blues groups.[5]

After graduating high school, Doyle attended Tennessee State University in Nashville, receiving a degree in Music Education.[2] While in Nashville, he played with trumpeter and Horace Silver associate Louis Smith and singers Gladys Knight and Donny Hathaway. He also briefly went to Detroit to play with hard bop trumpeter Charles Moore.[2][5] During this time, he became involved in civil rights protests.[6] Although he was at first uninterested in free jazz, he gradually gravitated toward it after playing at a Black Panthers festival,[2] having developed a sound that was "raw and unpolished, charged with vocal glossolalia arrived at by using a soft reed and singing through the horn".[5]

In 1968, Doyle moved to New York City, where he worked with Sun Ra and Bill Dixon, and met and befriended saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and guitarist Sonny Sharrock.[5] The following year, he appeared on Noah Howard's album The Black Ark. While in New York, Doyle met drummer Milford Graves, who encouraged him to pursue his natural affinity for pure sound.[5] In 1976, he and saxophonist Hugh Glover played on Graves's album Bäbi, released the following year. In 1977, he recorded Alabama Feeling, his first album as a leader. In the late 1970s, Doyle also began playing with guitarist Rudolph Grey, often in noisy duo settings, and performing in clubs such as Max's Kansas City.[5] In 1980, Doyle, Grey, and drummer Beaver Harris, together known as The Blue Humans, recorded Live NY 1980.

At around this time, Doyle began struggling with anxiety issues, and moved to Endicott, New York, where he worked as a counselor.[5] In 1981, he moved to Paris, where he began an association with multi-instrumentalist Alan Silva and his Celestrial Communication Orchestra,[5] and participating in the recording of the album Desert Mirage in 1982. The following year, while in France, he was accused of rape and imprisoned. He maintained his innocence, and was pardoned and released in 1988.[2][5] During his time in prison, he wrote over 150 songs and assembled what he called the Arthur Doyle Songbook.[5]

In the early 1990s, Doyle returned to the United States, moving back to Endicott, and restarted his involvement in music.[6] He resumed his association with Grey, playing at CBGB and releasing Arthur Doyle Plays and Sings from the Songbook Volume One on Grey's Audible Hiss label. Doyle also came to the attention of Thurston Moore, who described him as "spitting out incredible post-Aylerisms... Mystic music which took on the air of chasing ghosts and spirits through halls of mirrors",[7] and who would release two of Doyle's albums (More Alabama Feeling (1993) and The Songwriter (1995)) on his Ecstatic Peace! label.[2][5] (Moore's band Sonic Youth would later pay tribute to Doyle in their song "Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream", which appeared on their 2004 album Sonic Nurse.)

Over the next decade, Doyle toured and recorded extensively, releasing over a dozen albums on small labels.[5] During this time, he played and recorded with drummers Hamid Drake, Sabu Toyozumi, and Sunny Murray, among others, and formed The Arthur Doyle Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. Doyle spent his final years in his home town of Birmingham.[5] He was the subject of a 2012 documentary titled The Life, Love and Hate of a Free Jazz Man and His Woman, written and directed by Jorge Torres-Torres.[8] He died on January 25, 2014, in Alabama.[3]

Musical Style[edit]

Doyle was known for his "wild, full-blast playing"[3] and for his unique sound, which resulted from what one writer called his having "approach(ed) his instruments in a manner that makes the term 'idiosyncratic' seem painfully inept."[9] Dave Cross wrote: "His sound is a mixture of African folk song delicacy and pure Albert Ayler overload. His vocal style (both as pure element and incorporated into his sax and flute styling) is unidentifiable and seemingly from an alternate (jazz) world."[6] Doyle reflected: "I had this reed on that was too soft and my voice came through my saxophone. I liked the sound so I began singing and playing at the same time."[2] He also began to alternate playing with singing, shouting, scatting, and chanting, referring to his style as "free jazz soul music".[2] He explained: "You can't separate the singing from the saxophone, you can't separate the flute from the saxophone, you can't separate none of it from the saxophone. It all revolves around one instrument and that is Me, Myself."[2]

Doyle was also known for the poor quality of some of his recordings, a number of which were created on a portable cassette recorder.[6] Alabama Feeling was described as having been "recorded in fidelity that would make garage punk aficionados wince",[3] while More Alabama Feeling was "raw, with pause button slams, Doyle muttering incomprehensibly, multiple takes of shrieking sax power lift..."[6]

In a tribute following Doyle's death, Jon Dale wrote: "if anything, the crudeness, the rudeness of the recordings posit these albums as exalted and exultant documents of deeply personal expression... At his greatest, Doyle was a pure energy source – a thousand shafts of light vaulting out from the breath-sax nexus, and one great, pure and soulful voice, crying deep from the maw, its deceptive simplicity paradoxically singing out the complexity of life on this old earth. And now he's gone, and I don't think we'll see many like him again."[10]


As Leader[edit]

Release Year Recording Year Album Label Notes
1978 1977 Alabama Feeling AK-BA Debut as leader
1993 1990 More Alabama Feeling Ecstatic Peace!
1995 1992 Plays and Sings from the Songbook Volume 1 Audible Hiss Solo album
1995 1994 The Songwriter Ecstatic Peace! Solo album
1995 1995 Love Ship / Mama Love Papa Love Audible Hiss 7" single
1996 1995 Live at the Cooler The Lotus Sound With Rudolph Grey on guitar.
1997 1997 Do the Breakdown Ain-Soph Solo album
1998 1997 Live In Japan Doing The Breakdown Yokoto Music
2000 1999 A Prayer for Peace Zugswang
2000 1999 Egg Head Hell's Half Halo 7" single
2000 2000 Dawn of a New Vibration Fractal With Sunny Murray
2001 1999 Plays the African Love Call Ecstatic YOD With the Arthur Doyle Electro-Acoustic Ensemble
2001 2000 Live at Glenn Miller Cafe Ayler With Sunny Murray
2002 2000 Live at the Dorsch Gallery Carbon
2002 2002 Conspiracy Nation Qbico With the Arthur Doyle Electro-Acoustic Ensemble
2003 1997 Live in Japan, 1997 Qbico With Takashi Mizutani/Sabu Toyozumi
2003 2001 The Basement Tapes Durto With Edward Perraud/Dan Warburton
2004 2004 National Conspiracy Carbon Remix of pre-recorded and live material
2004 2003 Your Spirit is Calling Qbico With Hamid Drake
2005 1989/2004 No More Crazy Women Qbico
2005 2005 No More Evil Women Tour Carbon
2006 2004 Patriotic Act Qbico With the Arthur Doyle Electro-Acoustic Ensemble
2007 2006/2007 Bushman Yoga Ruby Red Editora With Arthur Doyle's Free Jazz Soul Orchestra
2010 1980 Ghosts II Foreign Frequency 7" single (with Rudolph Grey on guitar)
2011 2004 Live In Nashville & Louisville Sagittarius A-Star With the Arthur Doyle Electro-Acoustic Ensemble
2012 2011 In Solo 8mm Records
2016 2012 First House Amish Records
2017 2000 Live at the Tunnel Sinner Lady Gloria With Sunny Murray

As Sideman[edit]

Release Year Recording Year Artist Album Label
1972 1969 Noah Howard The Black Ark Freedom Records
1977 1976 Milford Graves Bäbi IPS
1982 1982 Alan Silva and the Celestrial Communication Orchestra Desert Mirage IAPC
1988 1988 Rudolph Grey Transfixed New Alliance
1995 1989 Sun Ra Someday My Prince Will Come - Second Star To The Right: Salute to Walt Disney Leo
1995 1980 The Blue Humans Live NY 1980 Audible Hiss
2002 2002 Konx Wholy Ghost Eyedrum


  1. ^ a b Wilmer, Val (2018). As Serious as your Life. Serpent's Tail. p. 364.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sharpe, John (February 20, 2009). "Arthur Doyle". All About Jazz. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Freeman, Phil (January 25, 2014). "Arthur Doyle 1944-2014". Burning Ambulance. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Jung, Fred. "A Fireside Chat with Arthur Doyle". Jazz Weekly. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Allen, Clifford (February 5, 2014). "In Memoriam: Arthur Doyle". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e Cross, Dave (June 2000). "Arthur Doyle - Me, Myself". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  7. ^ Moore, Thurston (August 4, 2009). "Thurston Moore's Top Ten Free Jazz Underground". Root Strata. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  8. ^ "The Life, Love and Hate of a Free Jazz Man and His Woman". Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  9. ^ Taylor, Derek (October 2001). "Arthur Doyle & Sunny Murray: Live At The Glenn Miller Cafe". All About Jazz. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  10. ^ Dale, Jon (January 28, 2014). "RIP Arthur Doyle, Freewheeling jazz saxophonist". Red Bull Music Academy. Retrieved February 3, 2021.