Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Europe 3... exiles and renegades...Cecil Taylor... Student Studies...

'In 1966 Cecil was hard pressed for an audience, particularly in America. There were few performances that year, and only three official recordings made—though two of those records have become among the most famous in his wide discography.' (From James Beaudreau's review ).

The third? 'Student Studies,' a live recording in France with Jimmy Lyons, Alan Silva and Andrew Cyrille, from which I have selected 'Amplitude.' An introductory repeated and slightly amended piano ripple, cymbal cutting like a knife, woodblock (?), gongs, more sharply reverberating cymbals and pattering small percussion. Then – Silva's bass, loud and booming – in the review that the above quote comes from, James Beaudreau makes the point that I have repeated with regard to many of my blog downloads from the 60's – that the bass is often mixed too far back. Here Silva is right in your face. Lyons enters, high and plaintive, some long low notes, fragments of alto. An unusual recording, the trajectory features a much more dislocated line. Taylor is not his usual surging storming presence – echoing cavernous tumbling drums and the booming bass dominate as the piano and sax scurry in their shadow and across the edges. There are calmer, still points when the music ebbs slowly downwards – yet these are often disrupted by a shrill whistle. Silva uses bowed bass to good effect in a duet with Cyrille, unsettling glissandos over resonating drums and a high clip clop figure (woodblock again?). Lyons returns with a repeated high note and a tentative dying fall, answered by shrill whistle – like an angry traffic cop – as Taylor gets inside the piano to produce deep ringings from the strings. Lyons utters a few short flourishes. Taylor is almost pointillistic in places, spilling out small flurries of notes... when the piano is featured at length, the 'inside' playing is a blur of overtones, the keyboard often just a low thrumming which gives quite a trippy dubby sound, almost as if Lee Perry had been lurking somewhere near the mixing desk. Everything is slightly and interestingly askew here... the piano not so prominent, played as a 'prepared' instrument, a dash of d├ętournement (well, they were in France...), Lyons intermittent, playing much less than usual, the bass and drums/percussion all over the track, dominating the textures and colourations. The use of recurring small motifs and patterns (such as the tick tocking woodblock, the whistle) give a binding flavour to the performance which conceals its length of nearly twenty minutes. It doesn't drag.... A superb and sharp piece to place alongside those two Blue Note studio sides from '66 - that offers hints of several roads that were not be travelled subsequently...

Cecil Taylor
(Cecil Taylor: piano; Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone; Alan Silva: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums).

(I've been having problems with uploads so here's a choice...password for yousendit is: freejazz. If this doesn't work - try Ezshare...)



Lucky said...

thanks for the cecil taylor!
i never heard him live, but listening to his records brings so much energy that i feel like a newborn child!

Rod... said...

I had listened to him for many years solely by albums - but got the chance in November 2004 to see him live - and he was brilliant! One of my very favouritge musicians - more soon!

Peter said...

thanks for that rod. i'm definitely putting that one on my shopping list. you're right about the mix - it's nice to hear the bass in one's face, as it were!

godoggo said...

My two thoughts about this and the subsequent:

1) It seems like in a lot of his stuff there's more of a concern for the sound of the music, whereas lately pure expression often seems to be the end, and never mind how it sounds (I guess those destination out tracks might be held up as exceptions, but you know the cliche about an exception).

godoggo said...

hmm, #2 was supposed to be the following:

2) The first time I ever heard Cyrille was on John Carter's "Castles of Ghana" album, and what struck me was how smooth he was, his delicate touch and metronomic time (really locking in with Richard Davis), so it always strikes me as a little odd how he is predominantly associated with this kind of playing with Cecil (I could say the same thing about Oxley, 'cept the John Carter part).

godoggo said...

sorry, sorry, I always end up doing this (weird stuff happening while posting BTW), but #1 was supposed to be "a lot of his stuff in the '60s"