Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cecil Taylor - 1976 - Air Above Mountains

Cecil Taylor 
Air Above Mountains

01. Air Above Mountains (Buildings Within) Part One         44:22
02. Air Above Mountains (Buildings Within) Part Two 31:52

Recorded live August 20, 1976 at Moosham Castle Open Air Festival, Austria.

Piano – Cecil Taylor

Following his successful live solo piano album Silent Tongues, Air Above Mountains is an improvement in that Taylor plays two extended pieces here (instead of the five shorter pieces that make up the former album).  With two half-hour pieces (restored to their original length on the CD reissue), Taylor explores the audial possibilities of the piano in placid, yet often thunderous runs.  Known for playing the piano like it was a drum set, Taylor here plays extended softer passages in his noted dissonant style.  Is this jazz?  Who cares.  It's wonderful, challenging, calamitous music..

Are you one of those people who has Cecil Taylor Kool Aid - drinking friends? You know, those people who go into that kind of druggy trance with the closed eyes and the nodding, every time a Cecil Taylor disc is played? And have you found yourself saying "well, I mean, he's definitely an amazing musician...but I just don't really get it! I don't know...I guess I love melody - rhythm too much...". Well, maybe you're an idiot. But maybe you're not!

Cecil is not always at his most coherent. I'm here to tell you this. He is sometimes not that coherent. But this, friends, is a Masterpiece. Yes, with capital M. The logic of the motivic unfolding, combined with the virtuosity and that unique, pulsing approach to rhythmic propulsion creates something which can stand up to anything. There are days when I might even say that this is the greatest improvised solo piano disc of all time.

I love Cecil's playing here. Even with some of its endless Cecil - isms. Oh, those Cecil - isms. So much signature! Sometimes the Cagean in me wishes they would take a back seat. The octaves, the bluesy licks, the pentatonic "Africanisms". But, what the hell. He's a big personality, Cecil Taylor. Well, in the end, so was Cage, with his grinning Buddha thing and his Zen and his so - called "Emptiness". So this is what it is.

Anybody who can teach you to listen differently with this much grace and passion is a genius. It's a complicated world. Room for both approaches, although I find that a somewhat wishy - washy attitude. The non - stop intensity here is maybe too much for everyday listening. But what's everyday listening? Maybe you should stop listening to music everyday; what do I know?

If I didn't make it clear, I love this disc.