Chalupa

Cecil Taylor RIP

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Bosendorfers everywhere are crying.  In a day and age where it is becoming harder to be original and authentic, CT was exclusively those things.  Rest easy Cecil.

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Great musician, phenomenal pianist, great task master, friend  and a couple of regrets for me. Farewell. 

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Cecil Taylor made our world a richer place.

I heard him play live with Jimmy Lyons, Henry Grimes and Andrew Cyrille in late 1965, and he opened up worlds of listening for me. It was the most intense musical experience I've ever gad.

So much giving on his part. Any thanks I would offer to Cecil Taylor would never be enough.

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Ah, crap...who's over 70 and still around?

I'd been expecting Cecil to be on his way for awhile. Photos showed an old man...:(

 

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I never met Cecil in person, never got to study or play with him, only saw him live once--in a very forbidding environment--but his presence was absolutely monumental in this music, and I can't imagine anyone who inhabits free jazz or creative music or whatever not feeling this sudden, encompassing sense of loss with CT's passing. Virtually all of the key innovators of early American free music are gone now. Consider this--the chapter spotlights in Valerie Wilmer's As Serious As Your Life include Trane, Cecil, Ornette, Sun Ra, Ayler, and the AACM, in addition to shorter features on people like Bill Dixon, Dennis Charles, Ed Blackwell, etc. Ekkehard Jost's Free Jazz includes chapters on Trane, Mingus, Ornette, Cecil, Shepp, Ayler, Don Cherry, Sun Ra, and the AACM. If you have a chance to see Shepp or the early wave AACM guys who are still around, drive 500, drive 1,000 miles to do it. As a scholar, listener, or musician, you absolutely owe it to yourself to inhabit a little bit of history so long as it still graces this planet.

I've detailed my personal connection to this music elsewhere, but suffice it to say that the kind of dogged iconoclasm at the heart of Cecil's music is not something to be taken lightly. I remember hearing a certain august improviser say of Derek Bailey, "He made a lot of sacrifices," and I imagine, without being privy to much in the way of private insights, that this was true of Cecil, too. Cecil's example emboldens even as it cautions, though, as to fight and survive and flourish in this music--and for so long--you need to come from a place of love, and joy, and purpose. That's something I have to remind myself of every day. 

I liked Ethan Iverson's invocation of the "if there hadn't been X, we would have needed to invent him" truism, because it's absolutely appropriate in this case. There's a spectrum of technical practice that encompasses "free jazz piano" and emanates outward into territories like bassless trios, large group free jazz, and especially vague categories like "energy music" that is marked by Cecil's innovations. Versions of CT's alphabetic notation are everywhere among a certain generation and category of improvising musician, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that this kind of elaborate restructuring of traditional notational strictures helped pave the way for the normalization of graphic scores in contemporary jazz. And while I'm sure many are much better equipped to detail Cecil's contributions to the lexicon of modern piano, it needs to be said that his innovations--in parallel and in consort with Albert Ayler--in the way of liberating jazz harmony, timbre, and especially rhythm section praxis are absolutely monumental. That's broad-stroke, macro stuff that isn't limited to free jazz.

And man, the highs were crazy high--we can spend lifetimes of boards and threads taking apart things like Unit Structures, Air Above Mountains, One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye, 3 Phasis, Akisakila, Spring of Two Blue J's, and on and on and on. Just 1,000,000x thanks. 

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2 hours ago, ep1str0phy said:

I never met Cecil in person, never got to study or play with him, only saw him live once--in a very forbidding environment--but his presence was absolutely monumental in this music, and I can't imagine anyone who inhabits free jazz or creative music or whatever not feeling this sudden, encompassing sense of loss with CT's passing. Virtually all of the key innovators of early American free music are gone now. Consider this--the chapter spotlights in Valerie Wilmer's As Serious As Your Life include Trane, Cecil, Ornette, Sun Ra, Ayler, and the AACM, in addition to shorter features on people like Bill Dixon, Dennis Charles, Ed Blackwell, etc. Ekkehard Jost's Free Jazz includes chapters on Trane, Mingus, Ornette, Cecil, Shepp, Ayler, Don Cherry, Sun Ra, and the AACM. If you have a chance to see Shepp or the early wave AACM guys who are still around, drive 500, drive 1,000 miles to do it. As a scholar, listener, or musician, you absolutely owe it to yourself to inhabit a little bit of history so long as it still graces this planet.

I've detailed my personal connection to this music elsewhere, but suffice it to say that the kind of dogged iconoclasm at the heart of Cecil's music is not something to be taken lightly. I remember hearing a certain august improviser say of Derek Bailey, "He made a lot of sacrifices," and I imagine, without being privy to much in the way of private insights, that this was true of Cecil, too. Cecil's example emboldens even as it cautions, though, as to fight and survive and flourish in this music--and for so long--you need to come from a place of love, and joy, and purpose. That's something I have to remind myself of every day. 

I liked Ethan Iverson's invocation of the "if there hadn't been X, we would have needed to invent him" truism, because it's absolutely appropriate in this case. There's a spectrum of technical practice that encompasses "free jazz piano" and emanates outward into territories like bassless trios, large group free jazz, and especially vague categories like "energy music" that is marked by Cecil's innovations. Versions of CT's alphabetic notation are everywhere among a certain generation and category of improvising musician, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that this kind of elaborate restructuring of traditional notational strictures helped pave the way for the normalization of graphic scores in contemporary jazz. And while I'm sure many are much better equipped to detail Cecil's contributions to the lexicon of modern piano, it needs to be said that his innovations--in parallel and in consort with Albert Ayler--in the way of liberating jazz harmony, timbre, and especially rhythm section praxis are absolutely monumental. That's broad-stroke, macro stuff that isn't limited to free jazz.

And man, the highs were crazy high--we can spend lifetimes of boards and threads taking apart things like Unit Structures, Air Above Mountains, One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye, 3 Phasis, Akisakila, Spring of Two Blue J's, and on and on and on. Just 1,000,000x thanks. 

Thanks for this post (and all your comments over the years) fwiw

I’ve missed my share of seeing the living masters - whoever someone else or I or you or the cognoscenti says they are - and I’ve never beat myself for missing 3 or 4 of the great pianists - yes I missed Paul Bley, Don Pullen, Mal Waldron and most of all I missed Horace Tapscott when I had one chance to see him shortly before he became ill. But I saw Cecil twice and the one time with Tony Oxley from 10 feet away had some of the EFFECT that so many have commented on over the past 2 days. 

so I will NOT miss Archie Shepp on 5/23. Never the biggest follower but he IS Archie Shepp and I understand what that means. Plus even though I’ve seen Charles Gayle a few times I will NOT miss him on 5/27. Plus Edward “Kidd” Jordan is also playing on 5/23 and although I’ve seen him numerous times these opportunities are not to be missed. Plus I’m going this year as the Vision Fest is thankfully back in Roulette in Brooklyn.

I imagine the atmosphere on 5/23 with Andrew Cyrille playing in 2 bands will be heavy with Cecil Taylor’s spirit

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Just recalled that last time I saw him was at London QEH with that amazing quartet with Anthony Braxton, William Parker and Tony Oxley. If I remember correctly, a bit of his poetry was featured too. Part of the London Jazz Festival, 2007 I think.

Before that was at much closer vantage with a couple of solo recitals in LA’s Jazz Bakery. That was pretty intense.

Edited by sidewinder

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5 minutes ago, sidewinder said:

Just recalled that last time I saw him was at London QEH with that amazing quartet with Anthony Braxton, William Parker and Tony Oxley. If I remember correctly, a bit of his poetry was featured too. Part of the London Jazz Festival, 2007 I think.

Before that was at much closer vantage with a couple of solo recitals in LA’s Jazz Bakery. That was pretty intense.

 I missed that one.  I knew I should have gone if only out of respect for the master and living legend.

I did get to see him at Scott's (mid sixties?) with Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille.  In the seventies I saw his performance at the Roundhouse with William Parker, Rashid Bakr and a female dancer.

 

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If my memory is correct, Cecil did a sort of dance/jig as he was invited onto the stage in his white outfit then recited poetry.

On one of those tunes the intensity with Braxton on contra bass saxophone was such that their was the perception they were all collectively levitating. At least that was my thought at the time !

A quick search on youtube confirms that a short video of that performance is on there. Braxton switches from the big sax to sopranino (?) which increases the intensity. Amazing stuff.

Edited by sidewinder

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2 hours ago, sidewinder said:

Just recalled that last time I saw him was at London QEH with that amazing quartet with Anthony Braxton, William Parker and Tony Oxley. If I remember correctly, a bit of his poetry was featured too. Part of the London Jazz Festival, 2007 I think.

Before that was at much closer vantage with a couple of solo recitals in LA’s Jazz Bakery. That was pretty intense.

Wasn't that the RFH as part of the re-opening season after the refurb? I was at the concert and certainly remember it as there but memory's a slippery friend. Recordings of the whole gig are out thre if you know what to search for...

He also played with Bill Dixon and Tony Oxley at RFH, don't recall the year. Solos from all three before duets and a final trio. Dixon used lots of effects. Startlingly good

My memory is that on both occasions, buet certainly the quartet date, Cecil entered dancing and reciting before sitting at the piano. Magical

Edited by mjazzg

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2 hours ago, mjazzg said:

Wasn't that the RFH as part of the re-opening season after the refurb? I was at the concert and certainly remember it as there but memory's a slippery friend. Recordings of the whole gig are out thre if you know what to search for...

He also played with Bill Dixon and Tony Oxley at RFH, don't recall the year. Solos from all three before duets and a final trio. Dixon used lots of effects. Startlingly good

My memory is that on both occasions, buet certainly the quartet date, Cecil entered dancing and reciting before sitting at the piano. Magical

Pretty sure the Dixon/Oxley/CT gig was 2004; a double bill with a Braxton Quintet, whose set yielded this recording.

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2 hours ago, mjazzg said:

Wasn't that the RFH as part of the re-opening season after the refurb? I was at the concert and certainly remember it as there but memory's a slippery friend. Recordings of the whole gig are out thre if you know what to search for...

He also played with Bill Dixon and Tony Oxley at RFH, don't recall the year. Solos from all three before duets and a final trio. Dixon used lots of effects. Startlingly good

My memory is that on both occasions, buet certainly the quartet date, Cecil entered dancing and reciting before sitting at the piano. Magical

Yes - It was right after the re-furb. I can recall the difference those wood baffles made at the back of the stage.

You are correct - he entered dancing and reciting - and I think he either had hand shaker bells or they were attached to his jump suit at the ankles. Quite the entrance and good to be reminded of all this.

I missed the one with Dixon and Oxley. It might have been a few years earlier. If I’d been in London I would have gone for sure. 2004 sounds about right.

Edited by sidewinder

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1 hour ago, Alexander Hawkins said:

Pretty sure the Dixon/Oxley/CT gig was 2004; a double bill with a Braxton Quintet, whose set yielded this recording.

Yes, of course it was. One hell of an evening's music and my introduction to Mary Halvorson too

 

58 minutes ago, sidewinder said:

Yes - It was right after the re-furb. I can recall the difference those wood baffles made at the back of the stage.

whereas I remember how comfy the newly upholstered seats were!

 

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I just caught up with this news in the middle of the night last night when I was listening to the end of the Billie Holiday birthday broadcast after my return from Montreal and it segued into the Cecil Taylor memorial broadcast (going continuously until 9:30 AM tomorrow).  A massive loss of a completely unique yet deeply and broadly influential, voice in American and global music.  He will be missed, and, more importantly, he will be remembered.

I was fortunate enough to see him 3 times, in shows that were always bracing, thought-provoking, challenging, and most of all deeply experienced and enjoyed.  The most memorable one for me was a massive collaboration/duel with another now-gone great of this music, Max Roach.  

Goodbye Cecil.

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Thanks @ep1str0phy for your lengthy and passionate post above!

Cecil's death, even to me as a non-practising musician with absolutely no real experience as a performer, still ... his death leaves a huge gap. And has me in state of

I have been playing his early music, with Neidlinger, Charles and Shepp (and Earl Griffith, Bill Barron, Ted Curson ... I skipped the album with Coltrane) ... the trio sides and the album w/Griffith contain some astonishing stuff indeed, the quartet isn't always successful in my book (and the two all star cuts even less so, though Roswell Rudd is great in his solos - he digs into the music with gusto, quite unlike the other horn players), but still, a tune like "Cell Walk for Celeste" definitely produces something totally new. Those two trio cuts with Sunny Murray (probably?) and the two with Billy Higgins show signs of where the trip would go, but it's the short Impulse session where things really gel for the first time. Grimes/Murray are pushing things onto a new level, and Jimmy Lyons is wonderful and fresh even on this first session ... also, the R&B links are there, in "Bulbs", more openly than ever so far, I think? (The part on Stevie Wonder in Richard Williams' remembrance is really telling!)

Then I also played the Montmartre/Nefertiti material again (I see that the PD reissue of it, also OOP by now, contained the Stockholm tracks initially on an Italian bootleg LP ... anyone can help me out there, drop me a pm please!) - and that is so monumental! So intense, still so fresh after all these years - there is a true shock moment there, with Murray splitting up steady time, yet still propulsing, swinging like mad ... and Lyons channelling Bird into his own idiom ... and at the heart of it, Cecil on piano, tearing it up. tune after tune after tune. This is truly cathartic stuff, and the fact that I know it doesn't change the experience one bit.

Will need to revisit the sixties stuff (check my blog for some ...) and some more of the later recordings including the late 70s Unit ... also played "Air Above Mountains", "Indent", "Praxis" and "Leaf Palm Hand" over the past few days. The last one, in duo with Tony Oxley, represents the only setting in which I was able to catch Cecil Taylor live. Again, it was puzzling and weird (his dancing around in his white long underpants and with no shoes, approaching the piano as if it was a raging bull ...) but astonishing in so many regards.

--

There's an unfinished sentence above, I know ... I don't find the right word and I guess that is telling again and a good display of the emptiness/decomposition/bleakness I feel.

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This is a big one. I'm still just trying to understand the Candids, BN's and I have the FMP's ready, I'm just not ready for them and beyond. He takes decades for me to comprehend what he's doing. A remarkable career. RIP.

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Don't have much to add -- posted some reminiscences over on the old Zuckerbook -- but I am glad to have been here while he was alive and making music.

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What a great loss. I don't get his poetry but besides that his music is absolutely incredible. I didn't get his music at first but around 2002-2003 I finally got it and I since then I  have hoarded nearly all of his existing albums. 

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I never got to see Cecil Taylor live.  There was a solo concert in Buffalo in 2009 that I found out about the day of or the day before the concert, I believe, but tickets may have been unavailable by that time anyway.  I had listened to Love for Sale and Coltrane Time in the weeks leading up to his passing, but I have a lot of ground to cover in his catalog in the future and need to revisit his other albums that I have.  Thank you for the music, Mr. Taylor, and rest in peace.

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