Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cecil Taylor - 1966 - Conquistador

Cecil Taylor 

01. Conquistador
02. With (Exit)

Recorded on October 6, 1966 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Alto Saxophone – Jimmy Lyons
Bass – Alan Silva, Henry Grimes
Drums – Andrew Cyrille
Piano – Cecil Taylor
Trumpet – Bill Dixon

For the second of Cecil Taylor's two Blue Note albums (following Unit Structures), the innovative pianist utilized a sextet comprised of trumpeter Bill Dixon, altoist Jimmy Lyons, both Henry Grimes and Alan Silva on basses and drummer Andrew Cyrille. During the two lengthy pieces, Lyons' passionate solos contrast with Dixon's quieter ruminations while the music in general is unremittingly intense. Both of the Taylor Blue Notes are quite historic and near-classics but, despite this important documentation, Cecil Taylor (other than a pair of Paris concerts) would not appear on records again until 1973.

Cecil Taylor's "Conquistador," out-of-print for nearly ten years and often impossible to find used, makes an improbable return to the Blue Note catalog in the RVG series. Cecil Taylor has been making unique contributions to jazz for more than 50 years, but the pianist actually only made two albums for Blue Note -- "Unit Structures" and "Conquistador." (Others have been issued on CD by Blue Note, but those sessions, like "Love for Sale" and "Jazz Advance," were originally recorded for other labels.) While many will say his most creative, fertile period began in the mid-70s, I have always enjoyed his two mid-60s Blue Note dates the best. I know many critics have deemed these transition years for Taylor, but I find his participation in the jazz avant-garde's most popular period to be quite vital. This October 6, 1966 session and its two tracks "Conquistador" and "With (Exit)," (an alternate take of the latter song is also included) certainly holds it own compared to albums of that year by fellow innovators John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp, not to mention his Blue Note colleagues. Indeed, the climate at Blue Note in Alfred Lion's last years was very open-minded and favored the experimental, and Taylor must have relished this freedom. His group of Bill Dixon on trumpet, Jimmy Lyons on alto sax, Henry Grimes and Alan Silva on bass, and Andrew Cyrille on drums is the perfect vehicle to put forth Taylor's eccentric, multi-layered free jazz vision. Those who like Blue Note classics like "Out to Lunch," Point of Departure," "The All-Seeing Eye" or "Dialogue" will be right at home with "Conquistador."