Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cecil Taylor, the Envelope, and the Abyss

According to legend, Cecil Taylor invented free jazz in 1957. I like that legend. That's the year I was born. Obviously the Creator was in one of his creative periods. Taylor is surely among the great figures in avant garde jazz. But his magnum opus was recorded a year earlier. Jazz Advance is simply brilliant, from the album title down to the last note. For some reason, I always think of Andrew Hill's magnificent Point of Departure in connection with Jazz Advance.

It opens with a Monk number, 'Bemsha Swing,' and I think you have on display a standard characteristic of modern jazz: a piano player, playing a Monk tune, and trying to sound like Monk. Taylor pulls it off. But he does so in the way that a prospector digs for gold.

I continue to think that the avant garde jazzmen did their best work when they kept at least a thread of connection to hard bop and post bop. Jazz Advance has Steve Lacy on Soprano Sax, Buell Neidlinger on bass, and Denis Charles on drums. You will find a lot of Lacy in my previous posts. Here is the above mentioned tune:
Cecil Taylor/Bemsha Swing/Jazz Advance
And here is a tune from a Taylor/Neidlinger album. It's a more traditional rendering of a standard that Taylor was obviously fond of. I'm not sure who played on this number, but Archie Shepp, Steve Lacy, Roswell Rudd, and Clark Terry are on the credits.
Cecil Taylor & Bud Neidlinger/Things Ain't What They Used to be/New York City R&B
Finally, here is pure Taylor free jazz, from his solo album For Olim. Steve Lacy once said that there are two kinds of jazz: offensive and defensive. Taylor always played for the offense. But there is a lot of yardage gained here.
Cecil Taylor/Question/For Olim
Well, there is some Cecil for you.

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