Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 10. 1963.
Jazz Revolution Towards Abstract
Jazz Revolution Towards Abstract
Jazz, having undergone one sweeping revolution since the war, is in the throes of a second. The jazz genealogists trace its development from bop via the modern extroverts to the new, abstract forms. The avant-garde experiments of Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Charlie Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Cecil Taylor may indeed be a new direction in jazz development.
Cecil Taylor has a tremendous reputation in the USA, but, as far as I know, The World of Cecil Taylor (American pressing Candid 8006) is his first record to appear in Wellington. (Note: A pat on the back for several Wellington shops for taking imaginative advantage of slack licensing quotas to bring in a moderately good selection of American pressings.)
Taylor has had a somewhat bizarre career for such a determinedly individual musician. His jazz career, after intensive formal training, began with a series of gigs with men like Hot Lips Page and Johnny Hodges. In 1957 he moved into the Five Spot in New York (Thelonious Monk's regular haunt) with his own group, featuring Gil Evans's soprano sax, Steve Lacy. He and his quartet featured in Jack Gelber's play. The Connection, which has recently been filmed. Taylor's Air, composed for the play, features on this album.
Air is probably the best introduction on the record to his music. The piece begins with some dynamic drumming by Dennis Charles, and after a free chorus of this Taylor enters with some crashing dissonances alternated with short, jerky runs. His mood shifts to unaccompanied rubato, alternating with harsh, atonal chords, before the drums return and Archie Shepp, his tenorman, swings into a long, hectoring solo.
Taylor's solo which follows rides along on Charles' insistent and fierce drumming (cf. Mingus Danny Richmond, an orgy of terrifyingly brilliant atonal runs built on top of a strong off-centre left hand. Taylor's brilliant, splintered, whirling runs are the mood-setter in this piece.
Air, which reminded me instantly of Mingus' Lock 'Em Up, is a frightening and nerve-wracking exploration of the mindless world of drug addiction portrayed in The Connection. But in case one thinks this is about all atonal music can be, the next track, the South Pacific ballad. This Nearly was Mine, is a lesson in the strength of Taylor's conception of jazz as a poetic medium.
Taylor's solo, backed with some constructive bass by Buell Ned-linger, is a masterpiece of blues, with a strong building rhythm. Taylor blends in the atonalities as more of a reinforcement than an essential element.
If you are able to put aside your conceptions about jazz and music after listening to these two tracks, then the rest of the record seems incredibly obvious. E.B., an astonishing flow of Taylor's ideas is probably the most interesting, especially if viewed as an extension of the piano developed by Monk and Powell. The left hand is no longer the oom-pah bass of the swing pianists—any bop fan knows that—but Taylor's concern with the shape and direction of music rather than the specific harmonic values has stripped it to its essence where it offsets and strengthens the tonal colouring of the right hand, which, free to wander at will, creates an abstract and total sound gestalt.—R.G.L.