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


Shop

More Articles

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 Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Malamute" CD/LP/Track Review Malamute
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 27, 2017
Read "Shipwreck 4" CD/LP/Track Review Shipwreck 4
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 13, 2016
Read "Streams" CD/LP/Track Review Streams
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 2, 2016
Read "Matador 4" CD/LP/Track Review Matador 4
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "Closer To The Sun" CD/LP/Track Review Closer To The Sun
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 10, 2016
Read "Binary & Mysteries of the Deep" CD/LP/Track Review Binary & Mysteries of the Deep
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 20, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!