Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Winged Serpents - Six Encomiums For Cecil Taylor (Tzadik, 2018)

Cecil Taylor passed away this year, after decades of remaking what it meant to play and compose for the piano, impressing and influencing a wide range of musicians across genres for generations. Tzadik brings together six pianists who fall into that category for very imaginative tributes to Taylor, along with impressionistic liner notes from poet Cecil Bernstein and cover artwork from label chief John Zorn himself, painted in ink, gold and blood. The music is unique to each artist and their approach to improvisation, whether short pointed tracks like "Genuflect" and "Quauhnahuac" by Craig Taborn and Sylvie Courvoisier to meditations on the method and fearlessness of Taylor's music apparent in "Minor Magus" by Brian Marsella and "Grass and Trees on the Other Side of the Tracks" by Kris Davis. The centerpiece of the recording is by "Unveiling Urban Pointillism" by Aruan Ortiz, a thirteen and a half minute fantasia that compares well with some of Taylor's most well known solo excursions like Live in Willisau and Silent Tongues. Ortiz builds his piece episodically, using the entire length and breadth of the keyboard, crashing low end notes and chords and letting them ring in the silence that follows. It's a masterful performance on a stunning tribute, one that is concluded by Anthony Coleman's "April 5th, 2018" which echoes the elegiac nature of Taylor's passing with the string will and fearless attitude that he displayed in life. This was an excellent album, one of the most memorable of the year, in fact. Each of these musicians was given the space they needed to create their own memorial, saying more through their instruments than the most heartfelt eulogy ever could. Winged Serpents - Encomiums For Cecil Taylor - amazon.com

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