Friday, March 03, 2006
Cecil Taylor/Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Tony Oxley... the blast of 'Last'
"'To play with Cecil Taylor you need the stamina of an athlete and the imagination of a god.' (Tony Oxley)
I love this quote... a sharp return to serious stuff this week – the Teddy Charles Tentet and now - 'Last' from the album 'Nailed'... although... yes, it's heavy and fiery and wild but – I find this music exhilarating! A concert recording, Parker tussling with Taylor's lines – or the other way round at times, as Barry Guy and Tony Oxley – the Old Firm – grapple to underpin the reeling streams of notes. This is a long track - but shorter than the preceding one (there are two on the album, the other clocking at about 50 mins): I wasn't sure about posting such a large chunk, but here goes... Any red-blooded collector wants their own solid copy anyway... and once you've been bitten by Cecil and co, it's hard not to resist the lure of their brand of sonic adventuring. This is a long track – but it's full of interest all the way. Commencing with deep piano notes slowly spaced and then a couple of chords as the bass enters, the piano responding with more elaborate lines as Oxley cymbals his way into the opening spaces. A meditative opening with busy bass behind the slo-mo piano – unusual and not the usual Cecil fire and brimstone - but not for long! Taylor starts to build up the intensity as a three way dialogue rises, suddenly erupting in splashing chords and the trade-mark lightning fast runs. This is densely packed music, brutal and bouncing at the same time. This is music that almost demands an evolutionary response – to rise to a point where it can be truly appreciated on all of its levels. Oxley's customised drum kit sounds totally distinctive, his cymbals sizzle and splash like no one else's. Guy's bass a little buried at times, felt rather than heard. Ten minutes or so in – and Evan Parker joins the throng – the crowd of three expanded by his multiphonic saxophone, a man with the technique and ideas to match Taylor's speed and density of line – linear and vertical simultaneously it seems. This is heavy company but the sax player sounds undaunted. I've seen Evan Parker several times down the years, solo and in different combinations: he always impresses. I feel that he has been so consistently good for so long that he is almost taken for granted, in an odd way. A home-grown genius who vastly expanded the post-Coltrane saxophone: of how many others can we say that they achieved anything near that level of sublimity?
This sort of music throws up different challenges – how do you respond to – or lead - Taylor's cataclysmic style, for one? Go for the spaces in between? (Small and microscopic as they undoubtedly are?) Float across it – as Jimmy Lyons did, whose metalanguage of expanded bebop out of Parker melded so well with his piano playing partner, finely honed down their years of playing together? Or match it note for note - as Parker does here? Coming out of Coltrane, originally, (who only made the one record with Taylor - an interesting but flawed document as the rhythm section, good as they were, just didn't fit) with that accurate high-register work that expands the saxophone range mightily and coupled to his circular breathing techniques, Parker rises brilliantly to this challenge, equal and more to the task. This is relentless music where there is so much going on on all levels. My only criticism is that the bass, as mentioned, is just a bit too far down in the mix – but that was probably a casualty of live recording levels and Guy's presence registers sufficiently for him to share in the glory. Just under twenty minutes in and Parker drops out – the bass can be heard a little better now, fast and loose, stepping up to the challenge. They start to slow down, Taylor muting the pyrotechnics, playing his own brand of acid lyricism, mirroring the quiet beginning as Guy displays his own virtuosity. They slowly wind down - to end on a high singing bass note.
This is an astounding piece of music – but, hey, I'm a fan...
Cecil Taylor/Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Tony Oxley
Recorded at the Bechstein Concert Hall, Berlin on 26 September 1990.