Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Kingdom to the Keys

Welcome to Sunday, and as promised a tribute to a revolutionary figure who passed away at 89 earlier this month, after essentially altering the DNA of the mind of the world.
To say that today's honored guest stood apart from the entirety of not just his contemporaries, but from all musicians in all of music history, sounds like hyperbole. Sometimes when I say stuff like that it is. Today? Not so much.
I was introduced to his music during my first weekend in California in 1990, when I stayed in the house of one of his most devoted disciples. Who regaled me with tales of following the man around the country, seeing every single concert he gave for years.
There's no argument that this music is not for everyone and you're not gonna see the Aguileras and the Fergies covering his tunes anytime soon. In fact, it is not an exaggeration in the slightest to say that today's honoree made Art that ranks high on the list of All-Time Most Challenging Shit.
The thing is, it becomes less so if you change your perspective willingly when you come to it. If you make up your mind that what you are hearing is not someone trying to "play the piano" in the normal ways we have all been taught are correct, but who is approaching it from the idea that it's an 88-keyed tuned percussion orchestra.
Yes, an orchestra as played by Thelonious Monk, if you transplanted the brain of Anton Webern into his head with a new, miracle surgery technique.
He used to say he realized early on he'd not be copying anyone. Over a career spanning seven decades, he didn't. Even once.
I find it sad that our world stopped producing iconoclast icons like this guy, and the music industry can't accommodate anything outside the lines of a toddler's coloring book anymore. Oh well, at least we still have 44 different kinds of Cheetos in the grocery store. That's what's really important, right?
Truthfully I could never really get into his ensemble material; it's got too much going on for even me to follow and I suspect it will take millennia for humans to evolve their consciousness to where it will seem comprehensible.
For me, it's his solo improvisational concerts that fly the flag of other worlds and universes. If you're interested in really honing in on the nuances of his conception and melodic/rhythmic choices, that's the place to go IMO.
And that's why I chose only black and white pictures for this post: the color of the keys of a piano. Because if you're gonna pay homage to a legendary lion of sound like Cecil Taylor, who redefined perhaps the most difficult instrument to render cliché-free into an almost brand new and distinct idiom all his own, then I think that's a statement worth making.
Cecil Taylor
Gro§er Sendesaal des WDR
Köln, Germany

01 Behdet/Falling Leaf/Stasis/Aha (Attacca)
02 Chorus Sud/Bells Wept at Crossing/Perspera

Total time: 1:51:57
disc break goes after Track 01

Cecil Taylor - piano

delicious and exquisite pre-broadcast reels from German WDR radio
This is two hours of the real... for my non-existent money it's likely the best unissued CT solo excursion, and it's recorded real swell by the art of German engineering at the WDR as well. What is so hip about this one is the propensity he keeps showing for slipping in these quaint, still, sort of lyrical passages into the maelstrom.
There are points in this immaculate concert -- probably one of my 20 favorite bootlegs of all time -- where it sounds as if someone scored out the music in Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert, tore it up into one-note pieces, and reassembled it back together at random.
So this concludes April for me, but I shall return to you soon -- provided the 101 degree fever I've had since Tuesday doesn't boil me alive -- and we shall dance about the Maypole to a heady tune or twelve. But for now you better get on your knees and thank Providence the Universe produced someone like Cecil Taylor.  And that your lifetime somehow, of all the lifetimes that ever were, found a way to overlap with his.--J.
3.15.1929 – 4.5.2018

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