Monday, October 19, 2009

Cecil Taylor - Conquistador (Blue Note 1966, 2003)

As Nat Hentoff notes in the original liner notes to this album, pianist Cecil Taylor had scant few chances to record or even perform live during his formative years in the late 1950’s and early ’60’s. So he had quite an opportunity in the mid ’60’s to record a few albums for Blue Note Records, including this influential LP where he improvises with Jimmy Lyons on alto saxophone, Bill Dixon on trumpet, Alan Silva and Henry Grimes on bass and Andrew Cryille on drums. It is interesting to hear the percussive nature of Taylor's piano paired with Cyrille's drums, which move and shift like the tide bringing in wave upon wave of different rhythm. On the two takes of "What Exit" there is ample solo space for both Lyons and Dixon and they use it in different ways. Lyons seems to be moving along a continuum begun by Charlie Parker and then expanded upon by Eric Dolphy of fast and sharp alto playing. There is a definite hint of the bebop legacy in his playing. Dixon takes a different track, using smears and blasts of sound like an abstract painter commenting on the proceedings around him. He picks his spots and then makes the most of them. The two bassists share ground well with Silva playing higher notes and often employing a bow while Grimes anchors the group with a solid but ever changing pulse. Although Taylor has something of a fearsome reputation, there is quite a bit of organization and subtlety to the music here. Although it can be a bit overwhelming on first listen, subsequent listens reveal layers of music and improvisation and that makes the music continually fresh and exciting.
Conquistador -

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