Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Cecil Taylor – Hard Driving Jazz (United Artists, 1959)
This session has appeared under a number of different names, most currently as a John Coltrane re-release called Coltrane Time. This version, which I plucked out of the library’s used book sale room for the princely sum of twenty–five cents is under Taylor’s name with Coltrane taking the pseudonym “Blue Train” so to not violate his then contract with the Prestige label.

It’s interesting to see Coltrane and Taylor, who would both go on to become the leading lights of the avant-garde in jazz performing with a straight hard bop group rounded out with Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Check Isreals on bass and Louis Hays on drums. Surprisingly, it all works quite well. The music stays well inside the pocket, except for a few very Monkish chords that Taylor throws in, and some quite intense “sheets of sound” soloing from Coltrane, all of which sound perfectly normal today, 40 years after they have been fully assimilated into the language of jazz – at the time it was probably a little off-putting for the average jazz fan whose experience with Coltrane may have only been a Miles Davis record or two. Nonetheless, this is an intriguing look at how the burgeoning avant-garde and the hard-bop mainstream were able to meet and coexist, and also makes for an interesting foreshadowing of the future career paths of Coltrane and Taylor.

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