Cecil Taylor

The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint & Soul Note

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The five discs that make up Cecil Taylor's Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint & Soul Note include four recordings released in the 1980s, beginning with the stellar Winged Serpent (Sliding Quadrants) from 1984. Among the bunch, this album is the true standout for Taylor fans. Its personnel include altoist Jimmy Lyons, Frank Wright and John Tchicai on tenor saxophones (the latter also plays bass clarinet), Gunter Hampel on baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, Enrico Rava and Tomasz Stanko on trumpets, Karen Borca on bassoon, bassist William Parker, and drummer Rashid Bakr -- everyone chants. Two medium-length and two longer pieces reflect a free jazz intensity without sacrificing any of Taylor's more disciplined attitude toward improvisation during the decade. The second two discs in this set contain the Historic Concerts, taken from duet shows Taylor played with drummer Max Roach in 1979 but unissued until the '80s. Mostly this works: there is much beautiful interplay and communication; Roach's alternately strident and dancing styles on the kit engage Taylor as a true equal. That said, the pianist sometimes loses the frame and goes on flights that cannot be resolved in this setting. When it works, it's brilliant; when it doesn't, it's mildly annoying. The last two albums in this set are both from 1986. For Olim is a live solo recording and Taylor was on fire. This is a much more refined and spacious Taylor. With only the title track being of any real length, the shorter pieces reveal, without obscuration, the profound influence of Duke Ellington's pianism. The final offering, Olu Iwa, features Taylor leading a sextet with Peter Brötzmann and Frank Wright on tenor saxes, Parker on bass, Thurman Barker on marimba and percussion, and Air's Steve McCall on drums. There is a terrific sense of give and take in these pieces, with Taylor allowing plenty of solo space for his sidemen, but the ensemble aspects are engaged and lively, and touch on virtually every aspect of the pianist's career to that time, and even point forward to what he would be doing in Europe in the 1990s. Given the price tag and the stellar sound -- far better than the original LPs, which were sometimes pressed badly, and the first-generation CDs, which were mastered in an age before engineers knew how to really use the format -- this is a prime pick for Taylor fans.

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
feat: Max Roach
feat: Max Roach
feat: Max Roach

Track Listing - Disc 4

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 48:20
2 27:10
blue highlight denotes track pick