Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Cecil Taylor Unit - 1976 - Dark To Themselves

The Cecil Taylor Unit 
Dark To Themselves

01. Streams 23:00
02. Chorus Of Seed 26:12

Live at the 17th Yugoslavian Jazz Festival in Ljubljana, June 18th, 1976

Alto Saxophone – James Lyons
Drums – Marc Edwards
Piano – Cecil Taylor
Tenor Saxophone – David S. Ware
Trumpet – Raphé Malik

Dark to Themselves begins a five-year run of fantastic recordings by the Cecil Taylor Unit. The 1990 CD reissue includes the entire June 18, 1976 performance (which was truncated to fit onto the original 1977 vinyl release). Unlike the more structured Unit masterpiece One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye or the breathless but exhaustive solo masterpiece Air Above Mountains, Dark to Themselves is a barn-burner from the word "go." Notable for featuring a young David S. Ware, our century's heir-apparent to the late-period playing of John Coltrane, it is really the work of trumpeter Raphe Malik that drives large sections of this performance. Jimmy Lyons is brilliant as usual, and the underrated Marc Edwards (who would later play on the Charles Gayle Quartet masterpiece More Live at the Knitting Factory) is especially nimble, giving the entire Unit the freedom they need to accentuate the anarcho-balletic playing of bandleader Cecil Taylor. Though it lacks the boozy brilliance of Live at the Cafe Montmarte or the sheer will of Air Above Mountains, Dark to Themselves easily ranks as one of Cecil Taylor's best records.

Dark to Themselves is a continuous 61-plus-minute performance by pianist Cecil Taylor and his 1976 quintet (which also includes such fiery players as trumpeter Raphe Malik, his longtime altoist Jimmy Lyons, tenor saxophonist David S. Ware, and drummer Marc Edwards). There is a quick theme along with brief transitions that form the composition "Streams and Chorus of Seed," but the bulk of the passionate performance is taken up by spontaneous and intense solos. Listeners with very open ears, and longtime fans of Taylor's, can consider this explosive performance essential.

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.

Cecil Taylor - 1975 - Silent Tongues

Cecil Taylor 
Silent Tongues

01. Abyss (First Movement), Petals & Filaments (Second Movement), Jitney (Third Movement)
02. Crossing (Fourth Movement) Part One
03. Crossing (Fourth Movement) Part Two
04. After All (Fifth Movement)
05. Jitney No. 2
06. After All No. 2

Piano – Cecil Taylor

Recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux, Switzerland, July 2, 1974.

To many, pianist Cecil Taylor is one of the most forbidding figure in contemporary music. Wrongly labeled the man who brought atonality to jazz (he is never atonal), whose pieces are Brucknerian in length, compared more often to the European classical modernists (Stockhausen, Boulez, Messiaen) than to his idols Monk, Ellington, and Powell, there is no middle ground with Taylor, his music either chews you up or spews you out.

Taylor's ouevre since 1963, when he broke his ties to countable time, under-10 minute songs lengths and conventional song structures, can be divided into two: Taylor with horns, and Taylor without horns. In a band context, several things can be an impediment to easy enjoyment: there are typically too many things going on at once, a kinds of simultanaeity of drums, piano, and horn(s) roaming freely in different directions; the horns often scream; Taylor's structures reveal themselves less readily, and in general there is often, but not always, more than the human ear can take in immediately.

CD's that foreground Taylor's piano playing, typically solo, but on also on the rare occasions where he plays in a bass-drums trio, or duets with a percussionist, is really the place to start. First of all, what seems like anarchy actually has sound structural underpinnings that more readily assert themselves solo. Cecil basically has a storehouse of little blue motifs, they can be fanfares, little abstracted bop lines, train blues, Ravel-esque ballads, all short and clipped; (many recur, slightly altered, through his work, giving the impression of one big meta-piece; he often begins by rotating them around, contrasting them against one another, and thenstarts to dissassemble them into soloistic flights of unbelieavable density and speed and dexterity, often, as on Silent Tongues, culminating in earthquake runs down the entire keyboard that sound like tectonic plates creating new continents by means of massive seismic events. (Ever heard a piano scream?) Taylor has his own private cosmology, alluded to in titles and poems, wherein the registers of the piano have some sort of astral significance (bass=abyss, high notes=heaven), and there is much jazz-like call and response between these note groupings, stabbing clusters (fists and elbows) in the bass, waterfall flights of fancy in the higher register. Eventually the celestial logic of the improvisational flight of fancy reassembles itself into the next motif, and the process starts all over again of thematic announcement and juxtaposition, deconstuction into solo improv, and re-assembly into the next set of motifs. He can do this for 20 minutes, or four straight hours. And just when you think your head is going explode, Cecil will cool things out with teasingly gorgeous balladry, for as little as you can stand.

He is a virtuoso -- Tatum is really the only jazz pianist who can push simultaneity so far. He famously once referred to the piano as 88 tuned drums, and that is how he approaches it, with a percussive glee, orchetstral hugeness, and unbelievable precision. He has called his style an imitation of a dancers leaps through space, unlike his European classical counterparts, this is physical music and not hemmed it by its procedures. He is not like other free-jazzers, who often sound as though they are willfully ditching their skills to make a thrilling point. Taylor has got the chops, and a harmonic imagination that really does at first impression conjure up Messiaen and Bartok.

But don't let that fool you. This is jazz. The emphasis on primordial percussive rhythms (albeit more multiplicitous than "swing"), blue notes, show-stopping improvisation, call-and-response: despite the fact that Cecil has abandoned traditional 32- ane 12-bar forms, all of his procedures come from jazz. The way his solos build to dramatic crescendos comes straight from Louis Armstrong's sure-fire show-biz sense of a climax (which Pops said he got from Caruso, of all people; maybe Louis should be blamed for looking to European classical music WHEN HE FIRST INVENTED JAZZ, and not Cecil, who is much-maligned-by cultural chauvinists whose last name is Marsalis). Listen carefully to Duke Ellington's often ignored accompaniment to his orchestra. He is banging really unlikely chords with a most un-European physicality (watch his shoulders and back move in old concert footage). Taylor has said again and again to people who bring up Darmstadt that these Ducal moves were his starting point, that lead in turn to Monk and Powell, and CT just brought it into the space age.

Taylor only began recording solo concerts almost 20 years into his recording career, in 1973; silent tongues (1974)was his third such recording in two years, and was a critical, and in avant-jazz terms, commercial breakthrough for him, winning both Downbeat polls and putting him a little closer to mainstream attention. [Interesting to note that the world's most acclaimed and popular solo piano improvising concertizer, Keith Jarrett, released his first extemporaneous piano recordings almost simultaneoulsy; with all due respect to Jarrett, Taylor makes The Koln Concert sound like Elton John minus the singing. Same hackneyed soul chords pounded over and over again -- I revere Jarrett's current trio and his Dewey Redman quartet, but his solo shows are nauseating and tasteless, he's the anti-Taylor) Due to the relative brevity of the pieces and clarity of the programming, this is a good place to start if you're curious to hear a man who approaches the piano the way Jackson Pollock approached a canvas. This is music set free from the bounds of space and time, full of color and dynamics at the heart of some maelstrom. Cecil Taylor is not for the faint of heart, but if you like Ornette Coleman, post-1965 Coltrane, or Agharta, you are depriving yourself of the most technically sophisticated "Noise" you will ever hear if you don't check out Cecil. He is the Founding Father, having cut his first sides in 1956 and nearing 80, he is still wearing out sidemen and audiences young enough to be his grandchildren. And Cecil's noise is a human noise, varied thrilling, and exalted.
In the tradition of Ives, he's making a racket to wake us up.

The Cecil Taylor Unit - 1973 - Spring Of Two Blue J's

The Cecil Taylor Unit 
Spring Of Two Blue J's

01. Part 1: Spring Of Two Blue-J's 16:19
02. Part 2: Spring Of Two Blue-J's 21:29

Second set of a concert recorded at Town Hall, New York City, November 4, 1973, dedicated to Ben Webster.

Cecil Taylor, piano
Jimmy Lyons, alto saxophone
Sirone, bass
Andrew Cyrille, drums

Recorded live at New York's Town Hall in 1974, Spring of Two Blue Jays is split between Taylor's solo piano version of the title song and a quartet rendition featuring veteran Taylor collaborators Andrew Cyrille on drums and Jimmy Lyons on alto saxophone, as well as bassist Sirone. The extended solo piece (both numbers clock in around 20 minutes) finds Taylor subtly moving from faint, romantic chords into knotty and mercurial ruminations, then ending the piece with tumultuous runs over the entire keyboard. With its keen call-and-response motives, endlessly fertile improvisation, and intuitive shifts in dynamics, this piano exploration qualifies as one of Taylor's best and most accessible. The ensemble version is predictably more intense. While Cyrille compliments and provokes Taylor with his supple and energetic work behind the kit, Lyons alternates between comically detached commentary and frenetic wailing on the alto. Sirone gets lost in the mix, but is heard to great effect on a solo spot at the end of the piece. Unfortunately, this fine album is out of print and hard to find, but hopefully it will be reissued by one of the many labels the pianist has recorded for throughout his career.

Cecil Taylor - 1973 - Indent

Cecil Taylor

01. Indent 2nd Part 21:00
02. Indent 2nd Part 23:00

Recorded live at the Antioch Theatre, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio on March 11, 1973.

Cecil Taylor: Piano

After nearly 20 years of critical neglect and hostility, pianist Cecil Taylor finally began to gain some approval in 1973. This solo concert, originally put out by Taylor on his own short-lived Unit Core label, gained wider recognition when Arista Freedom released it in 1977. On three lengthy improvisations, Taylor is quite stunning in his control of the piano, his wide range of percussive sound and his endurance. As is often true of Cecil Taylor's music, this recital is not for the faint-of-heart, but those with open ears will find it rewarding and certainly stimulating.

Indent and Silent Tongues are Cecil Taylor's best solo piano albums I think. I bought Indent as an LP back when Arista was still releasing avant-garde music. The album was a revelation. Taylor's music is highly structured, even though on first acquaintance it seems formless. His music is based on the gradual obsessive development of small motives, most of which are based on modal scales. These motives are played at a frenetic pace, which adds to the mistaken idea that this is "free" playing. Cecil can blow free with the best of them, but his music is always controlled and his chops are unequaled.
The solo work doesn't have the complexity of structure or instrumental timbre that you would find in Taylor's group work. But the solo stuff is indispensable, especially for pianists. If you are a jazz player, you cannot understand all of the music until you come to terms with this seminal innovator. Love him or hate him, Taylor is a force to be reckoned with.

The Cecil Taylor Unit - 1973 - Akisakila - Cecil Taylor Unit In Japan

The Cecil Taylor Unit
Akisakila / Cecil Taylor Unit In Japan

01. Bulu Akisakila Kutala 1
02. Bulu Akisakila Kutala 2
03. Bulu Akisakila Kutala 3
04. Bulu Akisakila Kutala 4

Recorded on 22 May 1973 at Koseinenkin Dai-Hall, Tokyo, Japan.
Includes insert and 36"x24" poster.

Alto Saxophone – Jimmy Lyons
Drums – Andrew Cyrille
Piano – Cecil Taylor

This concert, strung out over two CDs, is one of the few from the 1970s (recorded in 1973) that features Taylor with a trio; in this case, it was composed of the late saxophonist Jimmy Lyons and drummer Andrew Cyrille. The material is one extended improvisation entitled "Bulu Akaskira Kutala." The early '70s was Taylor's most articulate period of his method of propelling dynamic energy forth into conical spirals of harmonic mystery and danger. While his music had dispensed with the notions of form and interval long before this, the simultaneous explosion of group energy reached its first zenith during this period. It is also clear how dependent Taylor was on Lyons' voice. Lyons was one of the few alto players who understood the place he held in the music of Taylor, not only in the band. He would carry forth an extended harmonic idea as a soloist, but also as a sounding board as to which voicings Taylor could color -- which corner to turn and how fast to get there before moving off in a different direction. Cyrille, was, arguably a better drummer in the context of the Cecil Taylor Unit than Sunny Murray in his ability to understand that Taylor was also a drummer with a keen lyrical sensibility, no matter how angular. Cyrille's fills, weaves, dances, and shutter-stop rhythmic invention played counterpoint and complement to Taylor's sharp legato style that held at its core the very essence of rhythm in improvisation. The concert reaches its summit about a third of the way into the second disc, when all three players move around a sharp and complex harmonic fragment that opens up the inside of the collaboration, goes into overdrive, and breaks wide open. Taylor is playing large chords and right-hand trills in jagged repetition, which brings Cyrille's bass drum and cymbals up and spreads them out, with Lyons playing a glorious counterpoint with furious legato phrasing that embodies and bridges both statements. It's a segment of pure wonder and raw power. This date, though recorded a decade later, is a fine complement to Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come.

AKISAKILA has long been one of my favorite Cecil Taylor recordings. I think Andrew Cyrille was his best drummer, and here we have the power trio of Cecil, Jimmy Lyons on alto, and Cyrille on drums. This is the Cecil Taylor Unit playing Maximum Energy Music, so if that is what you want, go no further! The sound is not perfect, but not bad at all, just a little rough around the edges. I love the cover art on Vol. 1, with the surface of reality being peeled back to reveal the densely packed Spheres of Energy within.

This concert, at Koseinenkin Dai-Hall in Tokyo, was one marathon performance lasting over 80 minutes, given the name "Bulu Akisakila Kutala." It stretches over two discs, so be very careful what it is you're getting. The first disc, Vol. 1, is what you want, at a minimum, with 61 minutes of the piece. Toward the end Lyons makes an entrance playing high, bluesy extended notes sounding very much like Ornette Coleman before speeding up and joining the fray again. This beautiful passage serves as a sort of ending to the disc before it fades out, with the musicians still playing at full blast.

The second disc, Vol. 2, doesn't really make any sense by itself. It starts with the 20-minute conclusion of "Bulu Akisakila Kutala," followed by 30 minutes of Cecil solo, four shorter tracks recorded on May 29, 1973. Given that the long trio piece does not really have a structure, it is simply 20 more minutes similar to Vol. 1, and given that the short solo pieces are not on the same level as Cecil's great solo concerts such as Silent Tongues or Air Above Mountains, Vol. 2 is not worth pursuing other than to complete Vol. 1. I finally tracked down a used copy recently, and this is my conclusion.

It is unfortunate that AKISAKILA has been so hard to find over the years, and unfortunate that it has not been combined into one set. I have the original Konnex discs from Germany. Apparently there have been a couple of Japanese reissues, but again, be very careful what you're getting with multiple product listings and confusing names that often do not specify whether it's Vol. 1, or Vol. 2.

Cecil Taylor - 1971 - Nuits De La Fondation Maeght

Cecil Taylor 
Nuits De La Fondation Maeght

Second Act Of A Vol.1
01. Face A 21:25
02. Face B 19:55
Second Act Of A Vol.2
03. Face A 18:20
04. Face B 16:22
Second Act Of A Vol.3
05. Face A 13:00
06. Face B 20:00

Alto Saxophone – Jimmy Lyons
Drums – Andrew Cyrille
Piano, Voice – Cecil Taylor
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Sam Rivers

Recorded at Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Paris, July 29th, 1969, under the auspices of the Maeght Foundation as part of the concert series "Nuits de la Fondation Maeght".

This was a truly magical night for the Taylor unit. The interplay between Lyons and Rivers is impeccable, exploring intervallic reaches of tonal ambience and equanimity. The lack of a bassist in this case is a plus, not a minus, as Taylor gets to indulge his rhythmic impulse to the extreme in order to let the two sax players go into arpeggio overdrive in tandem. The polytonality of Rivers is especially important here as he doesn't so much collide with Lyons, who instinctively knew, in 1969, how Taylor articulated his language, he "extends" him linguistically. Rivers brittle tone on tenor and his shrill soprano engage the steady polyrhythmic attack of Lyons whose ostinato are the cues Taylor takes for his own when moving the piano into solo position. And the two horns find the striated expanses of sonic terrain Taylor prepares them for. And Cyrille knows just how to escalate; the result is no less spectacular than John Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders on Live in Seattle -- the only real difference is, it's Taylor who does the yelling and shouting when the music gets to the outer limits and can't express what he needs it to. The great Paris concert in its entirety is a Taylor masterpiece.

Nuits De La Fondation Maeght, trilogy recordings (for me) is his best work from a particularly enigmatic period. Taylor was playing sprawling immeasurably intense reckless refulgence & asymmetrical avant wizardry with the insane Andrew Cyrille, for me indubitably one of the most fantastic & original drummers ever. Out of the many things that could be said, I would emphasise that Taylor & his unit redefined the elongated-outburst & prolonged-peaking coming with ceaseless surging’s of unparalleled clamour & volatility. Frequently without intervals, extenuation or cessation they would dance an immensely detailed & dynamic squall within the singularity of remorseless & unforgiving outermost, fully-cyclic, hell-for-leather frenzy. A heteronomous hurricane & blitzing blizzard of ebullient fulmination Cyrille was able to maintain physically these momentous requirements but also inflect with a cycle of extensive improvisational embellishment & continually capricious contrasting...

Taylor’s closest adjutant saxophonist Jimmy Lyon’s would also duck in & out with sax screel & hysteria. These Olympic stints of decadent comminute went way beyond the threshold, agreeable limitation or somatic restriction that pretty much everybody else was on, with an unapologetic & frankly extremist activity/ideology of severe surplus pandemonium & improvident forceful action whilst exercising immense technical credibility. Many a marvel of withering extravagance was being exercised by other legends during this great era, but this lot did it, to my knowledge, longer & harder without intermission including mostly for each individual musician (consecutive group participation), never slacking & all exploding into one sustained shock-wave of terrific turbulence. these recordings though, do offer the secondary function of a more Avant-Garde slower & emotionally alternate medium occasionally with vocal extracts from Taylor. They are stunning diverse & intricate but also often bizarre. This is another phenomenon of Cecil Taylor & much of his music, lyrics & imagery. It’s dark, I would say at times even quite minatory. Much of the furore from the depths of Free Jazz’s sonic battle field encompassed anger, madness & intensity are as a commodity, but Taylor as with Sunny Murray often depicts & conjures stuff that I would not feel at error calling nasty, dark, or threatening in a direct & mostly unequivocal manner

Yes, for me, tones of hazard, tragedy & outright tenebrous madness etc are very apparent (hell, it could be just my misinterpretation, but I feel these elements skulk within his work amongst other sentiments & energies of a far more positive distinction). This is another specialist feature of Taylor & contributes even more to his significant idiosyncrasy. Anyway, as for this mind-blowingly marvellous 3LP set released by Shandar, there is another foreign element/irregularity that kicked shit completely into hyper-space. On these recordings they threw fucking Sam Rivers into the mix! Can you imagine? As if things were not preposterous enough, the absolute madman Rivers was air-dropped into the vortex with his tenor & soprano cannons. The results are just ridiculous & why these recordings are amongst the most precious & heavily rotated in my stash. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, no further foray frenzy was created with Rivers after this tour. Thank the goddess that someone was recording & captured this brain scattering murrain so expertly & issued it in this cult vinyl trilogy

Cecil Taylor - 1966 - Student Studies

Cecil Taylor
Student Studies 

01. Student Studies Part 1 15:56
02. Student Studies Part 2 10:54
03. Amplitude 19:49
04. Niggle Feuigle 11:58

Alto Saxophone – Jimmy Lyons
Bass – Alan Silva
Drums – Andrew Cyrille
Piano, Written-By – Cecil Taylor

Recorded on 30 November 1966 in in Paris, France.

Released on LP in 1966, Cecil Taylor's Student Studies is an anomaly from his other recordings of the era. Not purely improvised, Taylor uses arranged sections and built-in segments for thematic and improvisational space. His meditations on short tonal studies and propulsive bursts of energy became signifiers of his later music. The band here, including Jimmy Lyons, bassist Alan Silva, and drummer Andrew Cyrille, registered with Taylor's fluid disciplinary approach to atonalism and dissonance, and found room to actually swing in. In fact, the influences Taylor spoke of most often during the era -- Ellington, Bud Powell, and Mingus, can be traced here, if not heard outright. And the reliance on intervallic assertions by the various players presented a new opening in Taylor's work that he would take to an extreme later on. This is the sound of an artist at a creative peak of his improvisational and authoritative power to lead a band through the maze of sonic architecture and come out with something that was truly new and different. This is the first American appearance of Student Studies on CD, the sound is wonderful, and critic Scott Yanow's notes are empathetic and enlightening.

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."

Cecil Taylor - 1966 - Unit Structures

Cecil Taylor 
Unit Structures

01. Steps
02. Enter Evening (Soft Line Structure)
03. Unit Structure / As Of A Now / Section
04. Tales (8 Whisps)

Alto Saxophone – Jimmy Lyons
Alto Saxophone, Oboe, Bass Clarinet – Ken McIntyre
Bass – Alan Silva, Henry Grimes
Drums – Andrew Cyrille
Piano – Cecil Taylor
Trumpet – Eddie Gale Stevens Jr.

Recorded on May 19, 1966. Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

More than three years after his last recording, Taylor formed a septet with trumpeter Eddie Gale Stevens, saxophonists Jimmy Lyons and Ken McIntyre, bassists Henry Grimes and Alan Silva and drummer Andrew Cyrille for the manic delirium of Unit Structures (1966). Free jazz had loosened the uniformity of pulse thereby altering the flow of information whilst longer structures had disintegrated into independent units. So, the boundaries of traditional jazz, and hence thematic development, collapsed and it was here that Taylor built his principles of organisation, based on the manipulation and interplay of pitch and dynamics. Composition centred on a structure of contrasting blocks - Anacrusis, Plain and Area. The Anacrusis began each piece by setting the mood but not introducing thematic material as the goal was an emotional centrepiece that all improvisation and elaboration was tied to. Plain was a permuted series of simple themes. With little extension, the focus became slight variations in rhythm and phrasing between the players as they moved from theme to theme, punctuating each with a moment's silence. Area was, in a sense, the solo region for the horns yet the bassists, drummer and Taylor remained throughout, creating a musical dialogue as they responded to the solo. Pieces returned to Plain for collective re-evaluation, giving way to new Areas, and solos. Taylor was the catalyst for the entirety, feeding soloists material across the entire range and lexicon of his piano. Single lines, intervallic dyads, and clusters, as well as silence intermixed in his phrasing, accentuating and juxtaposing the statements of the group and soloist. Taylor's pitch-class operations ranged from transposition to modular multiplication, utilising the polyphony of the piano to contrast various scales and patterns in a specific series of permutations. His works embodied the complexity and the beauty of a mathematical proof.

The opening composition, Steps set the group atop an active volcano, the heat and ash pervading into the mass of energy and themes. The dialogue between brass, rhythm and piano prevented linear pattern and relationship recognition. The listener was forced to be an active participant, tying the brass solos and group improvisations to the opening statement.
Pulsating fear infected the follow-up, Enter, Evening. Atonal phrases rained throughout, accentuating the subtlety and chaos of the slow pulse and harmonic mayhem. Taylor's approach was cold and logical yet the results were distinctly passionate and had the structural integrity of hot wax. The contrasting approaches of Lyons and McIntyre developed a yearning for reconciliation between conventional acrobatics and animalistic shrieks, squeals and growls.
An eighteen minute monolith, Unit Structure opened with a mechanistic microcosm, a world of maniacal horology and determinism wrought large. Taylor introduced the five note scale, providing the thematic material. Lyons and McIntyre instantly took the line, with slight syncopation of the phrase. The other instruments joined, integrating themselves into the developing structure. The saxophones introduced a new theme in disunity, the silences filled by Cyrille. Repeating the process accentuated both the group improvisation and thematic development as the septet searched for essence and meaning. Brass solos provided an element of individual interpretation as well as expanding the dynamic range and phrase vocabulary. Each return to the group improvisation was a further synthesis, integrating the new statements within their framework. A Taylor composition was closer to a philosophical dialectic than a jazz session.
Removing Stevens, Lyons and McIntyre, Tales ended the album with streams of abrasive isolation and horrifying silence. The simplicity of instrumental timbre highlighted the complexity of Taylor's pitch operations as he juxtaposed elaborated diatonic and octatonic material against chromatic phrases.

Cecil Taylor - 1963 - Live At The Cafe Montmartre

Cecil Taylor
Live At The Cafe Montmartre

01. Trance 8:50
02. Call 8:53
03. Lena 6:44
04. D Trad, That's What 21:16

1976 Reissue, expanded for CD
Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come

101. Trance 9:12
102. Call 9:00
103. Lena 6:58
104. D Trad That's What 21:26
105. (Unrecorded Silence) 1:02
106. Call (Second Version) 6:37

201. What's New 12:10
202. Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come 9:10
203. Lena (Second Version) 14:22
204. Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come (Second Version) 8:00
205. (Unrecorded Silence) 1:02
206. D Trad That's What (Second Version) 20:08

Recorded live at the Cafe Montmartre, Copenhagen, Denmark, Nov. 23, 1962.
(released in 1963 in Denmark and Netherlands, 1965 in the USA)

Alto Saxophone – Jimmy Lyons
Drums – Sunny Murray
Piano – Cecil Taylor

"There is no music without order--if that music comes from a man's innards." Cecil Taylor.

This is something for Cecil Taylor fans worth checking out. All the existing tapes from Taylor's cafe Montmarte gig from 1962 have been collected along with three previously unheard tracks from the Golden Circle in Stockholm, Sweden, also from 1962. The Montmarte tracks feature a trio and the Circle tracks include bassist Kurt Lindstrom. Fans of Taylor will recognize this music from the albums "Live At The Cafe Montmarte" and "Nefertiti The Beautiful One Has Come". But having all existing tracks in one nice well presented package is a plus. And when you add in the bonus tracks--and all for about the price of a single CD--this is a no-brainer for fans.

The trio is Taylor-piano, Sunny Murray-drums, and Jimmy Lyons-alto sax. The quartet tracks place Lindstrom's bass fairly low in the mix, so at times it still sounds like a trio. The Montmarte tracks have decently good sound. The bonus tracks (one incomplete) were taped off the radio and have some hiss and a slightly far away distorted sound and feel to them. But even with the sonic anomalies they're still enjoyable for Taylor fans (like me) who have an affinity for this fine trio/quartet. The 18 page booklet has a short essay on this release, original liner notes for each album, color reproductions of the album covers, and a few b&w photos. The color photo on the back cover is from an album Taylor recorded for Nat Hentoff.

Everything here is by Taylor except for "What's New?" and "Flamingo". The band gives a typically visceral performance with long solos by both Taylor and Lyons. Murray is a free style drummer who somehow keeps things moving forward. Beginning with "Trance" and "Call" ( #1) you get a good idea of what this band was all about. "Lena" (#1) also tells the story of this fine trio's work, and I could go on. Here I have to say that the original album "Trance" on the Black Lion label has always been a favorite Taylor album of mine. Taylor didn't record for a few years after this until the mid '60s.

If you don't already own the individual albums, or just want to have all these recordings in one package, this is a great set to add to the Cecil Taylor portion of your jazz shelf. Taylor is in fiery style on these tracks, with long solos full of clusters of notes. Lyons (a personal favorite) gets a lot of space to blow. His Charlie Parker inspired playing (although in an entirely different style) is full of vigor and strength. He remains one of the most important alto sax players from his era. Murray (along with Andrew Cyrille and Dennis Charles) was one of Taylor's better drummers. His work still remains relatively unsung except by free jazz fans.

Cecil Taylor & Buell Neidlinger - 1961 - New York City R&B

Cecil Taylor & Buell Neidlinger 
New York City R&B

01. O.P. 9:08
02. Cell Walk For Celeste 11:35
03. Cindy's Main Mood 8:11
04. Things Ain't What They Used To Be 10:04

Baritone Saxophone – Charles Davis
Bass – Buell Neidlinger
Drums – Billy Higgins, Dennis Charles
Piano – Cecil Taylor
Soprano Saxophone – Steve Lacy
Tenor Saxophone – Archie Shepp
Trombone – Roswell Rudd
Trumpet – Clark Terry

Hmmm some interesting things to hear. It's amazing to hear the session was completed in two days, because the tunes (and let's say the concept behind the tracks) are so different. Of course Cecil's playing is always there, but i could have easily believed this was a compilation of works done over years. Maybe the shifting personnel enhances this impression of mine. It starts with Neidlinger and Higgins (d) laying a solid background for Cecil's free playing. 'Cell Walk for Celeste' features Archie Shepp in a composition of Taylor, wich is clearly arranged but still in a very free form. Side two opens with a trio's free improvisation. And at the end there's again Shepp and an even bigger horn section with Clark Terry, Steve Lacey and Roswell Rudd playing the Ellington tune 'Things Ain't What they Used to Be'. I really like this tune. A swinging tune yet enriched with some modern ideas. Can't help of thinking on Monk at times listening to Taylor's playing. All in all it's not exactly my favourite lp, but worth listening to from time to time at the very least.