Reviews that mention Cecil Taylor

December 16, 2020

Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley

Birdland, Neuburg 2011
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 13/2020

By Ken Waxman

A re-mastered radio broadcast of a two-part improvisation by American pianist Cecil Taylor (1929- 2018) and British percussionist Tony Oxley (b. 1938) at an intimate German club performance Birdland offers irrefutably evidence of the mastery of men who had at that point been collaborating for more than two decades.

Free Music avatar and one of the 20th Century’s most influential musicians, Taylor’s sound world is only off-putting if one is frightened by modern music. Dramatic, shaded and fluid, as demonstrate here, while spontaneous, every key stroke follows cerebral logic, with each piece possessing as categorical an introduction, elaboration and conclusion as any notated score. Shaking and vibrating the keyboard and pedals in both smooth and rugged fashions, Taylor’s instantly identifiable style evolves at various pitches and speeds. Often he adds pressurized extensions to intricately elaborated sequences, detouring along unexpected sonic alleyways, then cannily changing course to avoid meandering into musical dead ends. Meanwhile Oxley’s paradigm includes wooden slaps, clanging cymbal and drum plops, each precisely timed so that the pianist’s sudden staccato runs or leaps from one register to another never catch him off guard, but are shadowed or amplified and appropriately balanced. MORE

January 6, 2016

Label Spotlight

MPS (Edel: Kultur)
By Ken Waxman

Christian Kellersmann is now facing one of the most demanding yet satisfying challenges of his quarter-century career in the recording business. As director of Content and Creative for Berlin-based Edel: Kultur since late 2014, it’s his task to decide which items in the legendary MPS catalogue will be reissued. Besides sessions available on LP, analog tape and CD, twice each month two to five catalogue items are made available in digital form, exclusively on iTunes for a two month period, then on all download platforms. “This will be the first time in the history of the label that the entire jazz catalogue will be available in digital form,” he explains. “These timeless chapters in jazz will also be accompanied by online documentation.” MORE

November 3, 2013

Arrivals/Departures-New Horizons in Jazz

Stuart Broomer, Brain Morton & Bill Shoemaker
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

Book shelf: By Ken Waxman

Distinguished as much for its scholarship as the artful, mostly color photos and illustrations which make it an attractive souvenir, this 240-page volume is published by Lisbon’s annual Jazz em Agosto (JeA) Festival to mark its 30th anniversary of innovative programming. It says a lot about the individuals who program JeA that rather than commissioning a vainglorious run-down of the festival’s greatest hits, they turned to three respected jazz critics to profile 50 of the most important musicians, living or dead, who performed at the festival. MORE

December 17, 2009

Fred Anderson Trio

Birthday Live 2000
Asian Improv AIR “Official Bootleg”

Fred Anderson Quartet

Live at the Velvet Lounge Volume III

Asian Improv AIR 0074

Fred Anderson

Staying in the Game

Engine e029

Fred Anderson

21st Century Chase

Delmark DE 589

Consistency of expression is what has characterized the playing of Chicago tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson over the years. Furthermore, unlike many other musicians, there hasn’t been a subsequent lessening of his powers as he ages. As a matter of fact, now that he’s reached the venerable age of 80, his improvisational skills are at an exalted peak. Listen to these CDs for proof. They were recorded not only at Anderson’s 80th Birthday Bash, but when he was a comparative youngster of 79, 78 and even 71. MORE

July 2, 2008

Monk’s Music Thelonious Monk and Jazz History in the Making

By Gabriel Solis
University of California Press

Originally scorned, then patronized, yet eventually lionized, the career and compositions of Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) offer a lesson in the evolution of musical reputations. Today, both jazz’s neo-conservatives and its avant gardists claim the pianist’s as one of their own. Each makes its claim based on interpretation: fidelity to Monk’s scores or his ideas.

This volume synthesizes the situation, but except obliquely, comes down on neither side. Gabriel Solis, a professor at the University of Illinois, analyzes Monk in terms of sometimes bewildering academic theory, provides notated transcriptions of Monk’s records and compiles opinions of more than a dozen musicians. What emerges confirms his statement that “looking backwards and forward are not necessarily mutually contradictory.” MORE

January 31, 2005

Free Jazz and Free Improvisation

An Encyclopedia by Todd S. Jenkins
Greenwood Press Volume One A-J; Volume Two K-Z

By Ken Waxman

January 31, 2005

Reviewing a stand-alone project like Free Jazz and Free Improvisation presents a unique set of challenges, since you must deal with what isn’t covered in the 500-odd oversized pages of these two volumes as much as what is.

From the downbeat author Todd Jenkins has to be commended for his Herculean task, collecting from various sources essential information about Free Music and putting it into approachable form for the student, the researcher as well as the improvisational newbie. MORE

September 20, 2004


The Owner Of The River Bank
Justin Time/Enja JENJ 3317-2

Probably the first musician who legitimately melded African-American improvisational skills with hyper-European instrumental prowess, Cecil Taylor is a true citizen of the world.

Lionized as a combo leader and soloist, the now 75-year-old’s orchestral talents are less well known, since rehearsing any large band is time-consuming and expensive. Luckily as part of the celebration of the Italian Instabile Orchestra (IIO)’s 10th anniversary, the Talos Festival in Puglia, Italy’s arranged for this match up. The result gives Taylor the largest collection of orchestral colors to work with since he soloed with Michael Mantler’s 21-piece band on COMMUNICATIONS in 1968. MORE

August 23, 2004


Algonquin: Great Performances from the Library of Congress, Vol. 18
Bridge 9146

Presumably to be known from now on as Cecil Taylor’s “classical” CD, ALGONQUIN is a live recording of the Library of Congress recital that premiered the pianist’s McKim Fund commissioned duet for violin and piano.

Employing the prodigiously skilled violinist Mat Maneri as his partner, Taylor --who had never previously played with the fiddler -- molded his individualistic approach to the setting to create something that’s both memorable and unique in his massive discography. This four-track recital from Washington, D.C. isn’t a clichéd “gentle side of CT” anomaly, but proof one again that improvised music’s most inventive keyboardist can amaze in nearly any setting. MORE

May 10, 2004


FMP CD 123

Sailing past his 75th birthday in March, pianist Cecil Taylor seems to have no trouble maintaining the creativity that has served him well since his first recording date almost a half-century ago.

How does the emphatic improviser manage to keep creative many years past when most musicians -- even Louis Armstrong, his only challenger for transformation of 20th century music -- fall into repetition and often self-parody? Very simply Taylor is always concerned with making it new. This can involved new compositions, new improvisations, new settings, or new combinations of musicians. MORE

August 4, 2003


The Light of Corona
FMP CD 120

Keeping your attention fixated on the centre ring on this three-ring circus performance by a Cecil Taylor nonet is only a little more difficult than usual.

That’s because while the piano-as-ferocious-lion taming act of pianist Taylor is as riveting as always, distractions abound. There are acrobatic leaps and bounds on show from the horn section and a definite clown act arising from one member of the rhythm section.

The overriding impression you’re left with following this 1986 performance from Berlin however, is how Taylor’s seeming omnipotent power can bend any group of musicians to his will. Also, as with nearly every Taylor production over the past 40 years, the organization and output of the music on the CD are more singular than what you’d find in any other airing by a nine-piece band. MORE

April 5, 2002


The Willisau Concert
Intakt CD 072

What, after all these years, is there left to say about a new Cecil Taylor session? That it’s excellent? That at 73, after a recording career stretching back to 1956, the pianist still has the execution, stamina and font of ideas of someone half his age -- if that isn’t being ageist?

(As an aside it will be interesting -- but most likely disappointing -- to audit the wares of some of today’s more vaulted young lions when they reach their forties or fifties, let alone their seventies.) MORE