Cecil Taylor

Iwontuwonsi: Live at Sweet Basil, Vol. 1

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This excellent 1986 recording of Cecil Taylor, live at Sweet Basil in New York City, is an intimate document of an artist who had, at this point, been doing his own thing for over thirty years.

Cecil enters speaking/singing, accompanying himself with a bell and a drum. The words sound Native American, and the effect in the small club is startling. When he begins to play the piano, we feel as if we're right next to him. He imbues some unexpectedly beautiful, tonal (!) chords with a deep blues feeling. Then, after his trademark inward/outward explorations of sonorities we, the audience, are hurtling with Taylor toward inevitable destinations.

Taylor's concerts are a remarkable union of man and instrument. It's said that he regards the piano as 88 tuned drums; those types of sounds, and many others, emerge over the course of this 45-minute piece. Paramount at all times is a sense of invention and exploration, Cecil surprising himself. The focus is unrelenting.

The piano-playing here is only slightly less astonishing than that exhibited in his Herculean 1974 performance, "Silent Tongues." But the structure and unity (who else can create such coherent, committed, large-scale structures?) are at least as remarkable. The audience brings Taylor back for an encore. He sits down and plays for a minute and a half: an after-dinner joke.

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