It is a well rehearsed story that some of the major innovators of modern jazz were, in the early 1960s, struggling to get recording contracts or gigs in America. This led players like Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor to try their hand across the Atlantic. These players found a particularly warm reception in Scandinavia, and live recordings from any of these in Sweden or Denmark are well worth looking out for. This nicely packaged reissue captures Taylor’s performances at Copenhagen’s Café Montmartre, with three bonus tracks recorded at Stockholm’s Golden Circle. For fans of Taylor, the material (with the exception of the bonus tracks which have not been previously released) will be familiar from the Live! At the Café Montmartre and Nefertiti: the beautiful one has come. This set comes with a booklet with the sleeve notes from these previous releases, featuring Erik Weidermann’s insightful comments on the performances and the developments of Taylor’s playing.
RIP Mr. Cecil. In Memoriam. Recorded live in Berlin at the Total Music Meeting in early November 1996, and released by FMP in 2005, the nearly 77-minute performance ritual Almeda easily stands among Cecil Taylor's finest large ensemble realizations, including Unit Structures (1966), Winged Serpent/Sliding Quadrants (1986), and The Owner of the River Bank, a collaboration with the Italian Instabile Orchestra which occurred in 2004. Almeda's forces are expansive and colorfully unfurled. Here the pianist, poet, and composer was anchored by his regular working unit of bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jackson Krall, with guest cellist Tristan Honsinger.
This four-part suite for piano and violin was commissioned by the Library of Congress, and recorded in performance there in February of 1999. It was composed by Taylor, but the liner notes indicate that what Taylor provided in terms of a score was idiosyncratic – columns of individual notes along with "symbols and scribbles to suggest attacks, transitions, etc." Violinist Mat Maneri took a day to figure out his part based on Taylor's unorthodox score, and the resulting performance is what you might expect: basically a set of four improvisations based on a sketch of musical ideas.
This album and "Unit Structures" were the first recordings of the fully matured Cecil Taylor. The pianist/composer finally mastered the art of mixing composed and improvised music into a dense, powerful soundscape and found musicians who understood his concept.
No jazz music of the era approached the ferocity and intensity of Cecil Taylor's.