Featuring: Steve Lacy (ss), Cecil Taylor (p), Buell Neidlinger (b), Dennis Charles (d).
Since his first recordings, pianist Cecil Taylor’s astonishing performances
were marked by such freedom of improvisation that careful, studied listening was required. Cecil, whose staccato burst of phrases and subtle
use of motifs always implied a melody line, improvised in a manner which
defied description. He was constantly foraging in search of the dynamically
fresh in his solos. Steve Lacy—who made a stylistic leap in joining Taylor’s quartet in their embrace of free jazz—is heard here also blowing a new sound through the horn. His soprano had the virility of a tenor and the maneuverability of an alto. These performances make for rewarding listening because of the constant probing and daring of their participants.
"Today, most listeners think of Cecil Taylor as an awesome enigma. After all, it was more than 40 years ago that the American pianist started playing music in which it was tough to discern a tune unless you had a brain that could slow down a red-hot rush of notes to a stroll. But Taylor was a postbopper, and a fan of Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell and Duke Ellington once - and, on these legendary early pieces from 1956 and 57, you can hear it. Blue Note originally released this landmark set, but Fresh Sound has added some live material from the 1957 Newport jazz festival. A Taylor group comprised of Buell Neidlinger on bass and Dennis Charles on drums is augmented here and there by soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy; the repertoire mixes tunes by Ellington, Monk and Cole Porter with the leader's fearlessly personal reinventions of the blues. Thelonious Monk's Bemsha Monk is played even more cryptically and succinctly, the lines breaking up into jagged fragments and jutting chords. Taylor's Charge Em Blues is a 4 / 4 walk with a surprisingly straight Lacy sax solo, and Azure's lazily struck chords and delicate treble sounds might even remind you of Abdullah Ibrahim, until the cross-rhythmic improvised piano patterns clattering chords typical of later Taylor emerge. A live version of Johnny Come Lately shows just how swinging Taylor could be. It's a historic document that still sounds more contemporary than most jazz piano music being made today."
***** (5 Stars)
The Guardian - July 11, 2008
Recorded in Boston 1956 (#1-7), and Newport Jazz Festival 1957 (#8-10).