9

Winged Serpents: Six Encomiums for Cecil Taylor

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
The link between the late Cecil Taylor and the members of the Winged Serpents collective is one driven by admiration and inspiration, from a distance, rather than through collaboration. Taylor, in fact, had only shared billing twice in his half-century of recording. The Mary Lou Williams duet Embraced (Pablo, 1977) and Max Roach's 1979 recording of Historic Concerts (Soul Note, 1984) constitute the entire library of his communal projects and date back at least a generation before any of the Winged Serpents careers. Six Encomiums for Cecil Taylor takes on the enormous task of paying homage to an artist whose work was as complicated as his nature.

Winged Serpents is not a group per se but six of the leading progressive pianists in jazz music. The collective's name is taken from the title of Taylor's 1984 Soul Note release with his Orchestra of Two Continents. Each of the Winged Serpents pianists performs a solo improvisation dedicated to, and inspired by Taylor. In their order of appearance on we have Craig Taborn, Sylvie Courvoisier, Brian Marsella, Kris Davis, Aruán Ortiz, and Anthony Coleman. Marsella and Coleman are not the best-known members of the collective but both have ties to John Zorn's Tzadik label and Zorn is the Producer here as well.

Taborn opens with "Genuflect," an exercise in balancing mass and subtlety, and it is immediately evocative of the late pianist but with some poetic license. Courvoisier's "Quauhnahuac" renders incongruous imagery through her exacting prepared-piano techniques. "Minor Magus," from Marsella, shares some of Taylor's intangible and spontaneous animation while Davis' "Grass and Trees on the Other Side of the Tracks" combines scuttling drive with the pathos that—on rare and brief occasions—would surface in Taylor's solo work. Aruán Ortiz' stunning "Unveiling Urban Pointillism" is thirteen-plus minutes of intriguing music that doesn't simply touch on Taylor's visceral and subtle qualities, but takes those characteristics to a new level. Coleman's "April 5th, 2018" signifies the date of Taylor's death and is the only scored composition on the album. It is both somber at celebratory and a fitting closing to the collection.

From the late 1950s through his final recordings in the 2000s, accessibility was not a concern of Taylor's. On Six Encomiums... the musicians wisely temper the wild abandon and frenzied abstraction that were Taylor trademarks. Those moments are certainly present but not to the extent that they dominate the performances. One of the very interesting aspects of this album is that it feels like Taylor music, slowed down just enough to be able to appreciate nuances that were easily lost in his dense original work. At various points in the past performances of each of these pianists, comparisons to Taylor have been part of the analysis though it is highly unlikely that there will ever be a direct heir. The musicians of Winged Serpents wisely do not attempt to emulate Taylor to any extreme level and thus have given us an excellent tribute and some outstanding original music in its own right.

Track Listing: Genuflect; Quauhnahuac; Minor Magus; Grass and Trees on the Other Side of the Tracks; Unveiling Urban Pointillism; April 5th, 2018.

Personnel: Craig Taborn, Sylvie Courvoisier, Brian Marsella, Kris Davis, Aruán Ortiz, Anthony Coleman: piano.

Title: Six Encomiums for Cecil Taylor | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Tzadik

Tags

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Open & Close/The Sphinx

Open & Close/The Sphinx

Aruán Ortiz
Hidden Voices

Koko

Koko

Aruán Ortiz
Orbiting

Album Reviews
Radio
Album Reviews
Take Five With...
Read more articles
Live in Zürich

Live in Zürich

Intakt Records
2018

buy
Cub(an)ism

Cub(an)ism

Intakt Records
2017

buy
Cuban Nocturne

Cuban Nocturne

Newvelle Records
2017

buy
Hidden Voices

Hidden Voices

Intakt Records
2016

buy

Upcoming Shows

Related Articles

Read Avec le temps Album Reviews
Avec le temps
By Mark Sullivan
April 23, 2019
Read Snaketime: The Music Of Moondog Album Reviews
Snaketime: The Music Of Moondog
By Mark Corroto
April 23, 2019
Read Requiem for a New York Slice Album Reviews
Requiem for a New York Slice
By Mark Corroto
April 23, 2019
Read Trion Album Reviews
Trion
By Dan McClenaghan
April 22, 2019
Read LE10 18-05 Album Reviews
LE10 18-05
By Jakob Baekgaard
April 22, 2019
Read After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane Album Reviews
After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane
By Jakob Baekgaard
April 21, 2019
Read Cadillac Turns Album Reviews
Cadillac Turns
By Troy Dostert
April 21, 2019