Friday, May 5, 2017

Cecil Taylor - Live in the Black Forest

Keeping with the avant-garde jazz theme of the last post, here's one of pianist Cecil Taylor's least-known, but best albums. Live in the Black Forest was recorded in June, 1978 by one of Taylor's finest bands, which was featured on several albums in the late 1970s. The album was issued more or less simultaneously on MPS in Germany and Pausa in the US.

Cecil Taylor's music does not make for easy listening. His musical language ranges from highly chromatic to atonal, and, like Ayler, his music is generally unmetered, with no steady beat. And Taylor's pieces tend to be very long - sometimes a single piece can last two hours. But his music is also compositionally conceived - Taylor's aim is create a unified whole with each piece, not a "head" followed by a string of solos. The composed portions are taught to the players by rote, and the improvised sections ideally expand and connect with the composed material. Sometimes it works better than at other times; it works very well indeed here.

The excellent band consists of Raphe Malik on trumpet, Taylor's longtime musical associate Jimmy Lyons on alto sax, violinist Ramsey Ameen, Sirone (who was born Norris Jones) on bass, and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. All the musicians sound very much aligned with Taylor's vision, and join him in creating two very successful pieces, each taking up one side of the album. (At about 25 minutes each, these are relatively succinct examples of Taylor's art.) One of the delights of the album is Jackson's drumming - his playing is free and unmetered, but he somehow sounds like he is constantly on verge of breaking into a funk rhythm. And in fact he does just that for about thirty seconds during "Sperichill on Calling," the piece which takes up all of side two.

Live in the Black Forest was only reissued on CD in Japan; it has been out of print for many years. If you have 25 minutes to spare, here's side one, "The Eel Pot."

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