Thursday, February 18, 2021

Cecil Taylor - Mixed to Unit Structures Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2021)

After more than a decade of struggle: for respect, for equality, for even a chance to perform or record his groundbreaking music, this collection demonstrates pianist Cecil Taylor finally getting a chance to record for major labels, to perform at large festivals and hopefully attract a wider audience. The first chance was for Impulse Records in 1961, as one half of a split LP, something not often seen in jazz but would become much more common as pop music evolved into rock ‘n’ roll, particularly punk. A punk on his own right, Taylor’s music was met on the flip side with the immaculately arranged big band music of Gil Evans, whose name and image were placed prominently on the cover of the album to Taylor's detriment. Three excellent tracks from this session presented, but in particular, the performance "Mixed” where trumpeter Ted Curson and Roswell Rudd on trombone were added to the core band of Archie Shepp on tenor saxophone, Jimmy Lyons on alto saxophone, Henry Grimes on bass and Sunny Murray on drums. This lengthy track brings everything together, the newness of free or atonal playing, melded with swing, bebop and deep blues. Five years later, he brought a similarly sized group to Blue Note Records to record the Unit Structures LP with Lyons and Ken McIntyre on alto saxophone, Eddie Gale on trumpet, Grimes and Alan Silva on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums. The four performances on this album are challenging in the sense of asking deep engagement from the listener, but reward so widely where improvisation flows forth without fear, allowing the musicians to strike out for the territory and forge ahead, widening the scope and breadth of jazz. The spirit of freedom and inquiry that Taylor brought to his music is on clear display on this collection, which was been very well remastered and given a new set of liner notes by jazz authority Brian Morton. Mixed to Unit Structures Revisited - squidco.com

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