Cecil Taylor Unit
One Too Many Salty Swift And Not Goodbye
It seems to me that what music is, is everything that you do.
Those words from pianist Cecil Taylor, in the documentary Imagine The Sound , are a pointer to his craft. A little later he opens another vent: When one walks down the street and there is a fuchsia coloured awning sticking out on the 30th floor, one says, "Oh, wow!'?
Experience the feeling, observe the distance. These attributes mark the music of Taylor. It wafts in every cadence and trill, resonates in every dynamic cluster, thunders in each reverberation that is unleashed by the hammer of his left hand. And even as his vision roams far plains and knolls for inspiration, he goes back into history and reinvents the riches of the past.
Taylor has several remarkable recordings to his name. This one stands up and makes a redoubtable statement all over again. Taylor had three albums with the Cecil Taylor Unit in 1978, the year that saw them undertake a tour of the USA, Canada and Europe. Two albums, Cecil Taylor Unit and 3 Phasis , were studio recordings, and this was recorded live. It testifies not only to the tight weave that the Unit had structured between them, but also to the empathy that each musician shared with the other. The latter trait becomes all the more evident in the duet performances, something that Taylor worked in to build atmosphere before he came on.
The stage is set with Jimmy Lyons on alto saxophone and Raphé Malik on trumpet opening the concert. In under four minutes they electrify the atmosphere, conversing, beckoning, answering and intertwining lines before exiting for the strings: Sirone on bass and Ramsey Ameen on violin. The mood is quieter and more open-spaced, before the quick interjections from Ameen come in, colour and light pegged by the deeper resonance of Sirone. That would have been easy sailing, and so the convolutions vending their way into the blend. The pathway is etched deeper as Ameen introduces tight lines and Sirone rumbles with the bow. Form and time are never resolute but the shape they are given design a convincing portrait. Then it's time for Ronald Shannon Jackson. He sets up a diverse palette, never letting his trait for overwhelm getting the better of him. His accents and beats, his paradiddles and his splashes, evolve into a compact, tingling outing.
It is at this juncture that the suite opens up for the Unit. Taylor takes the band across several divides, changing the tempo and the pitch, letting his right hand ring up a line of luminescent notes and then driving in with an outburst of chords with his left. All the while the rest are there in consonance, tantalizing in the way they garner to the imagination of Taylor. His spirit is restless, his mood electrifies but he is focussed on creating the imaginable from what was in moments passed, unfathomable.
When Taylor comes in to solo at the start of the next section, he is mercurial. The flights of fancy soar and sway, the rush of notes countermanded by a sedate approach that is given short leash before concept bursts open and Jackson comes in on the spur to add to the drive and resonance. And when the group falls in, Taylor gets out of free motifs to actually lay down a melody, albeit briefly!
There is more space opened up by Taylor in the next part. He ups the tempo gradually, for him not to do so would be being caught in a rut. While Shannon rides on the cymbals, Sirone adds the depth, the two layers compactly sandwiching the fulminations of Taylor. In a remarkable and seamless turnaround, Taylor comes up dancing on the beckoning of a melody he carves as Sirone takes a hard swipe, but just for a moment. Lull and flare are the directions that beckon, as do the blues which flow in from Malik and Lyons, before the former rises in cry, his voice saluted by a hail of hosannas from the rest. The future may have its rewards, but the past has its wisdom.
One of the most effective passages manifests itself when Lyons comes in. He is big and brawny with a welter of concepts that he bends and skewers, jabbing and prodding, shooting shards that inveigle every nook.
Calm descends for the finale. Taylor is introspective, or is he? Given his style it is, even though the emphasis of the chords is muscular. The latter trait takes over, but he intersperses it with buoyant notes. Just for a little while. There is a nice surprise as Ameen brings in a candescence, a mellifluous glow that dissipates only to return in another becoming pattern. Nothing is cast in stone; everything evolves, making this a document that transcends time.
Personnel: Cecil Taylorpiano; Jimmy Lyonsalto saxophone; Raphé Maliktrumpet; Ramsey Ameenviolin; Sironedouble bass; Ronald Shannon Jacksondrums
Track Listing: One Too Many Salty Swift And Not Goodbye