Cecil Taylor's music was not for the faint of heart. The legendary pianist who performed like a combination of poet-percussionist-dancer rests now, but there is little doubt that discoveries from the archives will continue to be unearthed or reissued. In the meantime, tribute albums as eclectic as Taylor himself have been surfacing since he passed in 2018. Among the best was Six Encomiums for Cecil Taylor (Tzadik, 2018) from the Winged Serpents collective that included top pianists Craig Taborn, Kris Davis, Aruán Ortiz, and others. There is no piano in sight as drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassist William Parker, and trumpeter/ﬂugelhornist Enrico Rava now offer 2 Blues For Cecil, reveling in the spirit of the iconic free jazz legend.
What Six Encomiums... and 2 Blues For Cecil share is the resolve to pay homage without direct imitation. A wise choice given the often frenetic and byzantine nature of Taylor's work. Cyrille, Parker, and Rava all had a history with Taylor-led groups; the drummer and bassist, extensively. Rava's flugelhorn (he doesn't play trumpet on 2 Blues For Cecil) takes the lead on all ten tracks. "Improvisation No. 1" and "Improvisation No. 2" reveal an intent to spontaneity with restrainta quality Taylor did not often subscribe to. "Blues For Cecil No. 1" proves Rava to be adept at the blues even when emerging from the inner workings of this independently thinking rhythm section. "Overboard" is an absorbing meeting of the primitive and melodic. The trio closes the album with an understated reading of its only cover, "My Funny Valentine."
There is a native talent that comes with being top-tier members of the elite old guard of avant-garde and free jazz. For all their collective experiences and influences, Cyrille, Parker, and Rava are beholding to no particular inspiration. Their invoking of Taylor is simply an acclamation of the unprecedented spirit of his creativity. They summon Taylor's essence and do so stunningly, without going quite as far into the unknown as Taylor would likely have ventured. 2 Blues For Cecil offers a metaphorical calm within the storm that embodied the pianist.
Improvisation No 1; Ballerina; Blues For Cecil No. 1; Improvisation No. 2; Top, Bottom And What's In The
Middle; Blues For Cecil No. 2; Enrava Melody; Overboard; Machu Picchu; My Funny Valentine.