Cecil Taylor

December 27, 2022

Music From Two Continents: Live at Jazz Jamboree ‘84
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 16/2021

Finally able to expand his musical ideas, American pianist Cecil Taylor (1929-2018) increasingly convened large ensembles by the 1980s, especially in Europe. This Warsaw date matches the peripatetic pianist and regular members of his working band – alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons and bassist William Parker – with sympathetic American, Italian, Danish, Polish and German associates. The single hour-long performance becomes a CT Unit writ large with all 11 players contributing vocally as well as instrumentally to an emblematic Taylor tour-de-force.

Containing languorous and muted passages as well as expected frenetic and clamorous ones, the effect is that of multiple distinct timbres proposed at the same time, with internal logic preventing babbling turbulence. There are solos of sorts such as Lyon’s bracing FreeBop expansions, Karen Lyons’ nasal bassoon snorts, hoarse tailgate blasts from trombonist Conrad Bauer and. in the last sequence, swelling lightness from an unnamed flutist (Günter Hampel perhaps or one of the tenor saxophonists?) Besides episodes of reed-brass call-and-response, the horn strategy includes some lyrical interludes besides screaming triplets, heraldic flutters and brassy shakes from trumpeters Tomasz Stańko and Enrico Rava plus vibrating split tones, harsh reflux and scooping multiphonics from tenor saxophonists Frank Wright and John Tchicai. Double-bass pulses and Henry Martinez’s cymbal crashes and aboriginal-like tom-tom smacks both accent and propel the composition as do Taylor’s patterning dynamics. Otherwise the pianist’s highly distinctive phasing is front-and-centre with inimitable rolling glissandi, forceful chording and spilling note scatter shots. Meanwhile players project a tessitura range, including pseudo glee club harmonies and a radio play’s worth of personified mumbles, gargles, grunts and fake conversations.

Separating from the swelling horizontal narrative the ensemble comes to a full stop at the three-quarter mark. Then as the horns’ portamento squalls and vocal repetition keep ascending, Taylor’s percussive strokes backed by drum rattles corrals the reed flattement and brass puffs and whines into a crescendo of irregular vibrations. Collapsing inwards a trombone shake and single piano key plink mark the ending.

Music From Two Continents is another exhilarating musical ride from Taylor and one many will which to climb aboard.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Music From Two Continents

Personnel: Tomasz Stańko, Enrico Rava (trumpet); Conrad Bauer (trombone); Jimmy Lyons (alto saxophone); Frank Wright Jr., John Tchicai (tenor saxophone); Karen (Borca) Lyons (bassoon); Günter Hampel (bass clarinet, vibraphone); Cecil Taylor (piano); William Parker (bass); Henry Martinez (drums)