The Transition label and the then new music of Cecil Taylor were perfectly matched, the rebellion in modern jazz was on in 1956, and the pianist was at the forefront. Though many did not understand his approach at the time, the passing years temper scathing criticism, and you can easily appreciate what he is accomplishing. For the reissue Jazz Advance, you hear studio sessions in Boston circa 1956, and the legendary, ear-turning set of 1957 at the Newport Jazz Festival. A young Steve Lacy is included on several tracks, and while revealing Taylor's roughly hewn façade, the few pieces as a soloist and with his trio of bassist Buell Neidlinger and drummer Dennis Charles are even more telling.
At his most astonishing, Taylor slightly teases, barely referring to the melody of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," wrapping his playful, wild fingers and chordal head around a completely reworked, fractured, and indistinguishable yet introspective version of this well-worn song form. Taylor is also able to circle the wagons, jabbing and dotting certain vital notes on the melody of "Sweet & Lovely." When inclined to turn off putting dissonant chords into playful melody changes, he does so, turning around Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing" delightfully, and then scattering notes everywhere in his solo. Lacy's soprano sax is more than up to the task in interpreting Taylor's personal "Charge 'Em Blues" or laying out the straight-ahead mood on "Song." Neidlinger is the hardest swinging bassist on the planet during "Rick Kick Shaw," boosted by the Asian flavored piano of Taylor and especially the soaring punt-like drumming of Charles.
The Newport sessions allegedly sent the crowd reeling with stunned surprise, as the quartet takes Billy Strayhorn's "Johnny Come Lately" starkly further than Monk might have, while Taylor's original "Nona's Blues" sports a jagged edge in what he called a "traditional, shorter form" as they were "at a jazz festival," and his original "Tune 2" is a ten-and-a-half minute languid strut, most Monk like, and a departure from any norm previously established. With Jazz Advance, the revolution commenced, Taylor was setting the pace, and the improvised music world has never been the same. For challenged listeners, this LP has to be high on your must-have list.
Michael G. Nastos
|Transition / Blue Note Records Japan
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