Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Cecil Taylor-OLU IWA CD (Soul Note, Italy)

Here's another close my eyes 'n pick one outta the box review, and a good pick fer once considerin' the current heavy duty deep throb that I have for the high energy sounds of the post-bop/freejazz/avant thing that seemed just as enticing and as feral-sounding to me as the rock thing did back during the day. And Cecil Taylor has been a longtime fave of mine ever since I, on a plain ol' down and dirty whim, latched onto a copy of the Arista/Freedom NEFERTITI THE BEAUTIFUL ONE HAS COME twofa with Jimmy Lyons and Sunny bass! way back in '78 just because of the underground free buzz that even penetrated into the pages of the rock press. Ever since those days Taylor has been an on/off interest of mine and although I'll admit that I have only a handfulla his recordings in my possession (at least compared with some of you deep pockets types out there!) and that I certainly am not what one would call an "expert" with regards to the man or even what he has fully been trying to relay to us via his performances and albums spanning the past fiftysome years Taylor is one of those jazz legends whose work remains timeless and geared to minds that I will say are more fully developed than the standard soft jazz schmoozer's who laps up the pablum known as "today's light jazz favorites" with addled glee. (But then again one just has to feel some empathy and perhaps even pity for Taylor considering he was the only performer interviewed on the vastly overrated Ken Burns documentary JAZZ to get the razz from the omnipresent Wynton Marsalis, who dismissed Taylor's wishes that people would understand his music by studying various classical precedents as "bullshit". And you know that the likes of Return to Forever were to have been left unscathed on that useless piece of jazz hagiography that speaks about as much to the true core of jazz being as Jann Wenner does to rock & roll concerns! TRANSLATION: LCD as the bottom line!!!!)

But why should we really pay attention to the ravings of ol' bow tie when Taylor's music continues to speak for itself, which it certainly does on this '96 side recorded live in Berlin and issued on the Italian Soul Note label. A massive performance with two extended tracks, OLU IWA shows that although reports might have had Taylor slipping and sliding into softie territory that none of us would dare sit through without a handy barf bag, he still could cook hard velocity even at this relatively late date and at a time when at least I believed that the free jazz idiom, for all intent purposes, was a thing of the past having been replaced by some new alien life form I really didn't want to have anything to do with in a millyun years!

Ya get two tracks here, the first being the 48'21" "B Ee Ba Ngauga Han'a Eee!", which I believe loosely translates into "Dig it in a little deeper Dave" but I could be wrong. Anyway, this 'un features the entire Cecil Taylor Unit as it stood at the time complete with such stalwarts as Frank Wright and Peter Brotzmann on tenor saxes, Freedomland leader William Parker on bass and longtime vet Steve McCall on drums. I kinda wish I had read Art Lange's liner notes back when I first got and reviewed this disque a good eight or so years back because they mention McCall in the past tense, something which I had not realized (or remembered) which did come as quite a surprise. Adding an extra kick to this number is Thurman Barker on marimba, an instrument that never did get seen that much in jazz outside of some old Art Ensemble of Chicago discs, though frankly I don't think the Baja Marimba Band had this in mind.

Whaddeva, the Unit cook like Aunt Jemima at a Jaycees pancake breakfast as they get into a frantic jam that ebbs and flows from calm to overload while Taylor seemingly keeps it all under control with his patented scrunch which at times reminds me of Ellington channeling the spirit of Stravinsky while undergoing a rectal probe. Might-T powerful performance with a typical Taylor-led ferocity although I will shame myself and say that I actually prefer the followup title track by the stripped-down quartet (Taylor w/Barker, Parker and McCall) where the foursome get to stretch out even a little more and Barker's marimba can be heard in an even greater context giving an overall effect of a south of the border avant splurge. Tacos with soul sauce anyone?

It really is a treat to hear Taylor in any wayshapeform because I've yet to encounter a bum track from the guy, and even if the snooty jazz estab. continues their "conspiracy of silence" regarding Taylor even this far down the line at least there's the hard-edged high-energy lumpen proles (mainly ourselves!) who are out there supporting him in any way we can even if it is scarfing up old albums at hopefully budget prices. Anyway, this is just one of about what...a hunnerd or so Taylor albums out there somewhere and picking up one or a dozen the next time you carouse at the flea market would be a pretty snat way to resensify yourself after being barraged by the modern evils of sap. And if you're one of those jazz aficionado snoot types who think this review is heads up hindquarters because it doesn't mention or articulate on any contrapuntal tonology or the natural "healing power" of such a cosmic entity as Taylor well what were you expectin', Gary Giddins???


Anonymous said...

Wasn't it Branford that shat all over him in that documentary? Either way, the fact that the only coverage he got from Burns was the pretentious put down from OFFICIAL JAZZ SPOKESMEN made the film so much more worthless, in my opinion. This one is happily available at Oakland, CA Public Library, so there's hope, I guess.

Christopher said...

Would it be racist if I told you I can't tell a Wynton from a Branford Marsalis?

Anonymous said...

Wynton is the douchebag with a tie, Branford is the douchebag on Top Chef.