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Cecil Taylor: The Owner Of The River Bank

Jim Santella By

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The single piece by Cecil Taylor lasts an hour. It was recorded during the second of two concerts given to celebrate the first ten years of the Italian Instabile Orchestra. This was part of the Talos Festival in Ruvo di Puglia, in Southern Italy, on September 10, 2000.

From the sounds of an orchestra warming up, to a subdued conclusion that rumbles deeply and insignificantly, Taylor’s piece takes his audience on a journey through scenery that changes gradually and often. Indistinct human voices can be heard along the way; so can the sounds of trumpet valves clacking, saxophone keys tapping, reed mouthpieces chattering, brass mouthpieces kissing, and tympani rolling along. This is what Cecil Taylor does. His leadership at the piano gives the piece swirls and thrills. The other artists are encouraged to follow the paths that he’s charted for them. It’s not the usual musical notation, either. Taylor gives the orchestra a plan that’s sketched out on paper with symbols, words, shapes, and fragments to indicate his ideas. Basically, the musicians are on their own. This kind of collective improvisation gives his audience simultaneous themes that jump out at you in bunches.

There are moments when a strong individual will take over. A saxophonist or a trumpeter will repeat some lyrical phrase loudly and Taylor will sidle to its presence. His form of communication at the piano provides instant connection with the other artists. They “speak out” through their instruments and the leader replies. If it were that easy, then every little boy or girl could be a world-class musician. The veteran members of the Italian Instabile Orchestra—the ensemble was then ten years old—respond collectively with clarion tones and seamless phrases that knowingly communicate with musical sounds. Intonation is pure and tone quality is “proper.” All the rest is highly creative art that comes from the mind of Taylor, a pioneer and innovator of avant-garde fashion.


Track Listing: 1-7

Personnel: Cecil Taylor

Title: The Owner Of The River Bank | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Enja Records


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