Kentucky-born bari sax player Charles Tyler met Albert Ayler at age 15, and later relocated to New York to play with him. Tyler participated recording Ayler's "Bells" and "Spirits Rejoice",in 1966 released debut as leader (on ESP-Disk).In late 60s he moved to California to study and teach, played with Arthur Blythe and David Murray among others. His albums,released in late 60s - early 70s contain tuneful and energetic free bop, non-nonsense one, but even at that time he haven't been widely recognized.During 70s he played in New York lofts (incl. Sam Rivers Rivbea),collaborated with Cecil Taylor and Billy Bang,
In 1982 traveling Europe as Sun Ra Archestra's member he decided to stay in Denmark, at the end of the decade relocated to France. During his European period he recorded few more albums,played with local musicians and American ex-repatriates as Steve Lacy. His European releases,all on tiny labels,are even less known than his earlier American works, and it's a shame,since he stays one of rare baritone sax player-band leader with characteristic tuneful free-bop playing,recalling Ayler explosive and noisy but very trad-jazz rooted free jazz.
"Mid Western Drifter" is second of two Tyler released French studio albums,coming from the last decade of his life.Both released in 1992,they contain far not as explosive playing as could be find on his American recordings from early 70s. First of two,"Folly Fun Magic Music" has been recorded with team of young French jazz musicians and even if contain some interesting moments,in whole sounds as lion playing with cats (all obviously enjoy the music they play though). Second, "Mid West Drifter", recorded just some weeks after, contains more mature music, played by trio (with Didier Levallet on bass and Curtis Clark on piano). The album opens with narrative poem of the same title and continues with mid-tempo boppish,bluesy and even trad-jazz influenced compositions, moody,even melancholic,but almost always with freer Tyler's soloing. Even if quite different by expression, all music and Tyler playing in partial recall some Archie Shepp late-70s freer hard bop album. From one hand this music has not much in common with big jazz scenes of early 90s, but from other hand it demonstrates that rare,near unique feel of authentic free-bop,which could be find probably on best 60s recordings only. It's obvious that being almost isolated from contemporary jazz stream of the time, small Scandinavian and France club scenes were that place where that originally American authentic early free bop spirit survived almost till the end of the century not in revival,but in original form.
Steve Tyler passed away in Toulon,France just less than three months after he recorded this his last album,from heart failure at the age of only 51.The only one more album he released during the last decade of his life,besides of two mentioned above",is obscure "Autumn In Paris"(1988) recorded and released in Sweden (on Silkheart)with local Brus Trio(I had a great pleasure to listen them live already as "Brus Sextet" in 2010 in Birstonas Jazz Fest - they played highest probe nu jazz that time).
Closing "Mid Western Drifter" Tyler sings "'Round Midnight" - with melancholy and touch of sadness in his voice.Great album for fans of accessible,soulful and tasteful free bop,it's shame Steve Tyler's name is almost forgotten. He requires more exposition, especially his earlier innovative albums. Fortunately there are some CD releases on market, I would recommend Tyler's European recordings to everyone who like Archie Shepp hard bop music.