Finland's TUM Records wrapped up 2021 with a free jazz flourish, releasing trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's Great Lakes Quartet's stellar box set, The Chicago Symphonies and also Smith's masterful A Love Sonnet For Billie Holiday. The momentum continued in January 2022 with the label's release of The OGJB Quartet's Ode To O andthe subject of this review2 Blues For Cecil, from drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassist William Parker and trumpeter & flugelhornist Enrico Rava.
All three players here are major league jazz artists, with pedigrees in the art of improvisation which date from the '60sfor Cyrille and Rava and the '70s, in the case of Parker. This first recorded collaboration of the trio is a celebration of another superb improvisermaybe the boldest ever in this regardpianist Cecil Taylor (1929 -2018).
Cyrille's roots run to his work in the Cecil Taylor bands, including his contribution to the free jazz pianist's groundbreaking Unit Structures (Blue Note, 1966). Parker played in a later version of the Taylor group and, as with Cyrille, his tenure there lasted more than a decade. A bit less connected is Rava, who played on Winged Serpent (Sliding Quadrants, 1984) with Cecil Taylor's Orchestra Of Two Continents.
This trio does not try to match the scattershot, free flying wildness of Taylor. Their approach is a measured and spacious thing. Where Taylor sent piano notes and the collective cacophonies of his bands colliding off the quasars in the furthest reaches of the galaxy, Cyrille, Parker and Rava have found a closer star and set up a steady orbit, presenting four tracks of patiently played out collective improvisation, with two tunes written by Rava (who plays flugelhorn here) and one from Cyrille's pen, before wrapping up the show with a standard, "My Funny Valentine."
"Blues For Cecil No.1" finds a smooth-rolling groove, with Rava's resonant flugelhorn moving fluidly inside the drum and bass momentum. "Blues For Cecil No. 2" unfolds in a similar fashion, in a Miles Davis, L'Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud (Fontana, 1958) mode, a beautiful, capacious nod to the artistry of a legend.
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.
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