A quick three - time has run away with me this week, embroiled in editing down a lot of our music and plotting for the launch of our cd/download label... coming soon, fingers crossed...
'Things ain't what they used to be.' They certainly weren't after Cecil Taylor had exploded onto the scene... despite the years of initial obscurity, he laid down some powerful markers. The old Ellington tune, here worked out by an octet in 1961, five horns, including Clark Terry – an old Ellingtonian (1951-59). Regarding Cecil's piano playing, Gary Giddins remarked that:
'...Taylor is almost like a tabula rasa in the sense that listeners read into him whatever they happen to know about music. People with a classical background will hear everything from Ravel to Messiaen or Mozart to Brahms, and those with a jazz background tend to talk about Bud Powell, Lennie Tristano, Horace Silver or Dave Brubeck, and so forth.' (from here - scroll down)
The brilliantly astringent diagonal comping and asides on this track remind me of Monk and Duke, to add two more perceived influences. Interesting to compare one of the Ellington band's versions of this tune on this vid with Johnny Hodges soaring free. Taking the tune at a fair lick compared to the more sedate tempo employed here. I can hear this congregation as a distant echo of one of the Dukal small band tracks - and Duke's piano playing did not pigeon hole easily into period...Although, as Giddins qualifies:
'While people always seem to hear references to the music that they know, at the same time, whether you love Taylor or not, he doesn't really sound like anybody else. That is the great paradox, that he is so much an original, yet he calls to mind so much of western music and so much of piano music.' (Ibid).
Shepp comments querulously over the ensemble as they state the theme. Cecil takes the first solo, pecking, hacking and surging up and down the keyboard over a pretty straight rhythm from Neidlinger. Shepp emerges next – although it sounds as if Taylor's accompaniment is a continuation of his own solo. Squally, bending and slurring tenor – in places sounding like Ben Webster in an alternative universe, to continue that Ellington analogy. Then Clark Terry – poised, taking his time – I doubt that he was ever ruffled by much – sneaking in a quote from 'It ain't necessarily so.' Brief bass interlude - then Roswell Rudd follows, sounding like he's having fun - some wry trombone rips. Taylor back for some spaced out chords that accompany the bass coming through for a couple of choruses. Lacy then – entering on a high long held note. Higgins getting more assertive on the drums as the ensemble join in on a collective improv. An odd look at Taylor playing on a conventional structure – here, a twelve bar blues. A track positioned on the hinge of history, old and new joined in a raggedly exhilarating mash - or something...
Swacking guitars, rambling riffing bass, thumping beat, that swirly theme – the first track of Ornette Coleman's ''Dancing in your head,' 'Theme from a Symphony, Part One.' Ornette taking collective improvisation to a different place – his own sax used as much rhythmically as melodically – alternatively gliding over and bouncing off the surging boil of the music. Harmolodics, anyone? Definitions? We'll get there in the end – a concept you understand intuitively rather than logically, perhaps... fascinating to try and follow the different lines weaving in and out, the beat never quite as solid as you think it is, moving like an unpredictable wave down the beach, powered up by the mighty Ronald Shannon Jackson. Recorded in 1975, this was the first outing for his electric line-up, soon to become known as Prime Time.
One of the links between Ornette's electric bands and Miles Davis's voodoo jazz rock may well be George Clinton's Funkadelic. From the wild and wacky album 'Maggot Brain,' here is 'Wars of Armageddon.' Everything AND the kitchen sink chucked into this. The great Eddie Hazell rises occasionally out of the bongo_ridden swamp like a wah wah God but this is wacky collage in the main over an infectious driving rhythm. Love the cuckoo clock... More pussy to the power, y'all... Etc... Apologies to the thought police... not...
I'm hoping to get more tracks up this weekend... energy (and Armageddon) permitting. Vaya con dios...
Cecil Taylor (p) Steve Lacy (ss) Roswell Rudd (tr) Archie Shepp (ts) Charles Davis (bs) Clark Terry (t) Buell Neidlinger(b) Billy Higgins (d)
Things ain't what they used to be
Ornette Coleman (as) Robert Palmer (cl) Bern Nix, Charles Ellerbee (g) Jamaaladeen Tacuma (b) Ronald Shannon Jackson (d)
Theme from a Symphony Part One
Eddie Hazel,Tawl Ross (g) Bernie Worrell (key) Billy Nelson (b) Tiki Fulwood (d) Parliament, Gary Shider, Bernie Worrell, Tawl Ross (v)
Wars of Armageddon