Documenting the evolution of Cecil Taylor is an undertaking that is way beyond the pay grade of most listeners. Just as in the study of homo sapiens (yes, us) where there is no critical moment (the missing link) that we can definitely pinpoint where our ancestors established language, art and importantly, abstract thought, Taylor's music can be thought of in similar terms. Obviously his approach didn't emerge fully formed. Or did it? No, that is an irrational thought, but a thought one might have listening to his recordings. While it is easier to trace art from the cave paintings of Lascaux to Picasso's Guernica, tracking Taylor's development is no easy task.
Credit to Werner X. Uehlinger's ezz-thetics label for this decoding of the Taylor mystique. Presented here for comparison are two sessions recorded a month apart in 1966, one studio and another live recording. "With (Exit)" is taken from the Blue Note Records session Conquistador! (released in 1968) and the remaining four live tracks were released as both Student Studies (BYG Records, 1973) and on the Japanese Freedom label in 1977 as Great Paris Concert "1" and Great Paris Concert "2".
Taylor's tenure at Blue Note, which included three sessions, Jazz Advance (1956), and 1966's Unit Structures and Conquistador! all seem to be a struggle with producer Alfred Lion's post-bebop formula. "With (Exit)" contains the classic Blue Note two-horn front line of Jimmy Lyons and Bill Dixon, with two bassists, Alan Silva and Henry Grimes, plus drummer Andrew Cyrille. Lion's formula though couldn't contain Taylor's experimentation. Even within the strict studio structure, the music blossoms with the same energy free jazz was employing in the mid 1960s.
Jumping forward one month, the live Paris date is without Dixon and Grimes. The performance is one of unbridled energy. Taylor's piano can hardly be contained, but maybe of equal importance is the combination of Lyons, Silva, and Cyrille as they prove themselves equals. The quartet's energy exchange never diminishes as each is prepared to follow Taylor into the vortex of his musical conception. Listen closely enough and one can hear the entire history of creative free art from birth to modernity.
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