The late free jazz icon Cecil Taylor
was thought to have only recorded two duo albums in his career. One was Embraced
(Pablo, 1977) with Mary Lou Williams
, the other, Historic Concerts
(Soul Note, 1984) with Max Roach
. Both were underwhelming mismatches, with Taylor overpowering his partners. In 2020, drummer Tony Oxley
found two live Taylor-Oxley recordings in his personal archives, housed in a basement in Germany. Birdland, Neuburg
(Fundacja Słuchaj!, 2020) was released in the Spring of that year, and, in the Fall, this collection, ...Being Astral & All Registers...Power Of Two...
Taylor was clearly in his element when leading one of his groups or solo, but he began collaborating with Oxley in the 1980s, and the drummer was later part of Taylor's Workshop Ensemble in the 1990s. As a duo, they recorded Ailanthus / Altissima: Bilateral Dimensions Of 2 Root Songs
(Triple Point Records, 2010); a limited edition vinyl release, long out of print.
It would be reasonable to assume that the pairing of the vehemently percussive pianist and Oxley's dense assortment of blocks, bongos, bells and gadgets would be a recipe for pandemonium. Indeed, much of the half-hour free improvisations, "Being Astral & All Registers" and the concluding "Power of Two," is resolutely free-wheeling, but both pieces, the latter in particular, have melodies strewn through the anarchy. It is no less challenging a listen than much of Taylor's catalog, but it does occasionally come up for air.
Taylor's hammering clusters and Oxley's aggressive polyrhythmic improvisations create a surprising balance on ...Being Astral & All Registers...Power Of Two...
. A more complimentary and listener-friendly concert is represented by the three tracks on the exceptional archival find, Birdland, Neuburg
where age seems to have mellowedbut not diminishedTaylor's playing. Still, both albums are rampant with harmonic collisions, fleeting melodies, and unpredictability. From his 1956 debut, Jazz Advance
(Transition), Taylor's work was never anything less than complex and gripping. He seldom recorded after the 1990s but continued to perform with his larger ensembles. Oxley's late-career discoveries only enhance the reputations of these two legends.
Being Astral And All Registers; The Power of Two.