356

Cecil Taylor Unit: The Eighth

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Cecil Taylor Unit: The Eighth Half man and half force of nature, pianist Cecil Taylor has made his music a mass of opposites and contradictions. Simultaneously exhausting and liberating, primeval and space age, visceral and intellectually rigorous, it's like nothing that went before it and precious little that came afterward.

As revolutionary a stylist as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane combined, Taylor has, like those two saxophonists, overcome initial incomprehension to take his rightful place as an acknowledged titan of contemporary music. But his total rejection of traditional structures and sonorities, and his refusal to countenance such a frailty as listener fatigue, has meant that his following has remained a small, albeit devoted one.

This 24-bit reissue of Taylor's brilliant 1981 live album, The Eighth, shows why. "Calling It The 8th" is a 59-minute double-fisted, elbows-on-the-keyboard, off-the-gauge hurricane of passion, counter-rhythm and chromaticism. Its ten-minute reprise, "Calling It The 9th," achieves the same level of overwhelming intensity. But if you can surrender yourself to the onslaught and stay the course, you'll emerge invigorated and uplifted, bloody but stronger. It's a prize worth fighting for.

Taylor's sound is so gigantic and sui generis that it's hard to pin down in words. He's frequently cited Bud Powell and Duke Ellington as primary inspirations, yet their influence is far from explicit. He shares Powell's dense intensity, but not his overriding darkness. He matches Ellington's genius for structure, but on an in-the-moment canvas. Taylor's approach is arguably closer to Little Richard's—but with a Zeus-like keyboard technique and a headful of off-planet hallucinogens.

Like Ellington, however, Taylor values longevity in his band members. Alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons had been playing with Taylor for twenty years at the time of this recording (and would continue to do so until his death five years later), and the interaction between the two is so attuned it's practically subliminal. Their four ten-minute passages of dual-core improvisation are the high peaks of the performance. Bassist William Parker and drummer Rashid Bakr are foregrounded less often, but do more than keep up.

Taylor makes just two concessions, if they can be called that, one to listeners, the other to form. "The 8th" is digitally divided, during brief moments when the band cool down to regroup for a further assault, into three sections, each lasting about 19 minutes—bite-sized portions by Taylor's standards. "The 9th" closes with two minutes of almost conventional, pretty melodicism.

Apart from that, you're on your own. Next time the force is with you, you could try sticking the headphones on and going for it.

Track Listing: Calling It The 8th; Calling It The 9th.

Personnel: Cecil Taylor: Bosendorfer piano; Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone; William Parker: bass; Rashid Bakr: drums.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Hatology | Style: Modern Jazz


comments powered by Disqus

Shop

More Articles

Read This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People CD/LP/Track Review This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: May 29, 2017
Read Nigerian Spirit CD/LP/Track Review Nigerian Spirit
by James Nadal
Published: May 29, 2017
Read The Colours Suite CD/LP/Track Review The Colours Suite
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 29, 2017
Read Les Liasons Dangereuses 1960 CD/LP/Track Review Les Liasons Dangereuses 1960
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 29, 2017
Read Chapter Five CD/LP/Track Review Chapter Five
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 28, 2017
Read The Hive CD/LP/Track Review The Hive
by Edward Blanco
Published: May 28, 2017
Read "Istanbul Underground" CD/LP/Track Review Istanbul Underground
by James Nadal
Published: June 22, 2016
Read "Jojje Wadenius (70)" CD/LP/Track Review Jojje Wadenius (70)
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 9, 2016
Read "Like, Strange" CD/LP/Track Review Like, Strange
by Troy Collins
Published: April 5, 2017
Read "The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture" CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Tangofied III" CD/LP/Track Review Tangofied III
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 13, 2017
Read "Coldest Second Yesterday" CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, hide slide-outs, and provide read access to our future articles.

Buy it!