At first combining a set by Cecil Taylor with another by the Gigi Gryce-Donald Byrd Jazz Laboratory seems like an odd pairing, but it ends up working rather well. These live recordings, which come from the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival, have stood the test of time rather well. Taylor's style of piano playing is not that far removed from Thelonious Monk in his interpretation of Billy Strayhorn's "Johnny Come Lately," though his dissonant, angular approach is a bit busier; Steve Lacy's nasal-toned soprano sax and solid rhythmic support from bassist Buell Neidlinger and drummer Denis Charles fuel Taylor's fiery playing. Both Taylor's "Nona's Blues" and "Tune 2" are fairly accessible in comparison to his works in the decade which followed. The Gigi Gryce-Donald Byrd Jazz Laboratory -- with pianist Hank Jones, bassist Wendell Marshall, and drummer Osie Johnson -- is firmly rooted in hard bop. Oddly enough, none of the three pieces were written by either Gryce or Byrd, though they were both already budding composers at this point in their respective careers. But their brief program -- which includes Ray Bryant's "Splittin' (Ray's Way)," the blues "Batland," and a rousing rendition of "Love for Sale" -- is a good representation of this unfortunately short-lived and under-recorded group. Reissued as a part of Verve's limited-edition series in the summer of 2002, this valuable CD will be available until the summer of 2005.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden