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Cecil Taylor: Conquistador!

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More so than with any label, the greatest recordings on Blue Note, those that pull rank on the merely great and that we can most comfortably say will belong to all ages, seem to prove a burden for many listeners to embrace, no matter how enthralled they are by the sounds of Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Blue Train —the label's signature sounds, really. Consider Out To Lunch! and Point of Departure, often dismissed as acquired tastes, or worse, noise, and flouted as inspired nonsense—such chivalrous chicanery!—irrespective of the idea that applying whatever principles—"drawbacks" of shape and form—might lead one to this critique could likewise have at Finnegans Wake. And so too with Cecil Taylor and Conquistador!, another warranted entry in the Rudy Van Gelder series, with a bonus cut of "With (Exit)."

Odd as it may sound, if you are new to Taylor's music, and before proceeding to the Caf' Montmartre sessions, you're perhaps best off starting with this record, an avant-garde jazz walkabout of sorts, or at least a Cecil Taylor walkabout; here we can bear witness to the qualities, in different ideas, forms, themes and styles, that characterize an entire body of work—archetypes of interaction and by-play, suggestion and statement, however indirect, and then subversion of whatever feeling, emotion, idea, had been conjured up in the first place, and thus we continue on with the journey.

For the seasoned listener, the principal value of this release is naturally having it available again, and, more importantly, the alternate take of what was the original album's second and final track—side B for the vinyl lovers. Two minutes shorter, this "new" version of "With (Exit)" is even more disturbing and, frankly, invasive, than the official take, with Taylor creating textures that pulse and recoil, frantically trapped in one dark alley of a nightmare, and turning, alone, down another. Speaking analogously, it is though the happy version of "Dedication"—once titled "Cadaver"—had been chosen to close Point of Departure —instead of the proper requiem—or that we have discovered the lost soundtrack to Dementia, such is the gap between these two takes.

In terms of Conquistador! as a whole, note the by-play of Taylor and altoist Jimmy Lyons, foil and compatriot both, depending upon the composition, or the movements within the composition; and, let it be said, that along with Armstrong and Hines, Dolphy and Little, Coleman and Cherry, theirs is a partnership that seems so inevitably wrought and well-suited, one can scarcely imagine the sound of the one without hearing the sound of the other—that is, until spinning Jazz Advance or Burnt Offering.


Track Listing: 1. Conquistador 2. With (Exit) 3. With (Exit)* (Alternate Take)

Personnel: Cecil Taylor (p), Jimmy Lyons (as), Henry Grimes (b), Alan Silva (b), Andrew Cyrille (d)

Title: Conquistador! | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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