Cecil Taylor: Mixed To Unit Structures Revisited

Mark Corroto By

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Cecil Taylor: Mixed To Unit Structures Revisited
A listener could make it their life's work to absorb and appreciate the music the music of Cecil Taylor. One could possibly approach it as a scholar and musician through notation and transcription—not the recommended approach. Such a task would be similar to the process of systematizing a DNA sequence. Taylor's music, and pardon this analogy, might be best grasped as one might attend to the oxymoronic genre noise music.

If you are still reading, allow an explanation. In a review of Taylor's 1962 recording Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come (Arista, Freedom, 1975) a live trio recording made between the two reissues heard here Mixed (Impulse!,1961) and Unit Structures (Blue Note, 1966), Richard Cool and Brian Morton of the Penguin Guide To Jazz Recordings fame said, "Taylor is still working his way out of the jazz tradition...the playing has an irresistible momentum that creates its own kind of rocking swing, the pulse indefinable but palpable." Taylor, like every other jazz innovator from Louis Armstrong to Charlie Parker did not enter the scene fully formed. His first recordings Jazz Advance (Blue Note, 1956) and Love For Sale (United Artists, 1959) found him covering Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, and Cole Porter. This "working his way out of the jazz tradition" was his process of assimilation and evolution.

The release entitled Mixed was originally released under The Gil Evans Orchestra moniker titled Into The Hot (Impulse!, 1962). Evans who together with Miles Davis created Miles Ahead (Columbia, 1957) and Sketches Of Spain (Columbia, 1960) was certainly a more recognizable name. The introduction of Cecil's revolution was (still is) a delicate matter. The three tracks included in Evans' release introduced many listeners to Taylor and the revolutionary artists Jimmy Lyons, Archie Shepp, Roswell Rudd, Henry Grimes, and Sunny Murray. The music from Mixed is, for lack of a better term, swingin.' Lyons and Shepp's saxophones address the growing storm whipped up by Ornette Coleman while the pulse of the music threatens to tear itself away from the bebop revolution. Revisiting this skillfully remastered music sixty years on might not give us that original 'shock of the new' experience, but it remains quite surprising. Taylor orchestrates not unlike Charles Mingus as a means to proffer his growing confidence in his keyboard language.

Six years after Mixed, Taylor recorded Unit Structures with two bassists, Henry Grimes and Alan Silva, Makanda Ken McIntyre replaced Archie Shepp, and Eddie Gale replaced Roswell Rudd. At this junction, the Cecil Taylor revolution had begun. His music is impossible to inspect under a microscope; there are too many moving pieces and parts. Reading Taylor's own liner notes is akin trying to wade through James Joyce's Ulysses. That said, Unit Structures is not impenetrable, it's just that it is (like Japanoise) better experienced than deciphered.

Track Listing

Pots; Bulbs; Mixed; Steps; Enter, Evening (Soft Line Structure); Unit/Structure / As Of A Now / Section; Tales (8 Whisps).


Cecil Taylor: piano; Jimmy Lyons: saxophone, alto; Archie Shepp: saxophone, tenor; Henry Grimes: bass, acoustic; Sunny Murray: drums; Makanda Ken McIntyre: saxophone; Eddie Gale: trumpet; Alan Silva: bass, acoustic; Andrew Cyrille: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Ken McIntyre: bass clarinet, oboe. Roswell Rudd: trombone (track 3 only); Ted Curson: trumpet (track 3 only).

Album information

Title: Mixed to Unit Structures Revisited | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Ezz-thetics

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