The Willisau Concert

Cecil Taylor

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The Willisau Concert Review

by Brian Olewnick

Cecil Taylor had released numerous albums of solo recitals, and picking the best out of such a stellar crop is next to impossible. At the very least, it's safe to say that among his recordings after having reached the ripe age of 70, The Willisau Concert is among the very best and that it sits comfortably alongside discs like Indent, Silent Tongues, and Double Holy House. Since around 1970, in one sense Taylor, especially when playing solo, reiterates the same immensely deep composition time and time again. One hears almost the same motifs, usually subtly altered, a profound appreciation of the blues (if rarely directly stated), and an attack that, even if it had mellowed somewhat over the years, retained a hugely proud and rigorous character. Here, he battles a luxurious sounding Boesendorfer into submission, making rich use of its extra low notes; there's almost always a rumbling going on. His unyielding invention is at the forefront as he wrings variation upon sublime invention on his repository of melodic lines, never noodling about in search of inspiration, always somehow summoning it directly to his fingertips. The live performance is sliced into five sections. A lengthy main portion seemingly leaving no stone unturned is both beautiful and exhausting on it own. But then, as though Taylor realized there were things left unsaid, he launches into a stunning 13-minute postlude, breathtaking in its touch and level of emotion. In an embarrassment of riches, he adds three brief and exquisite addenda, achieving a delicacy and depth unmatched by any of his peers in the music. The Willisau Concert shows a grandmaster as yet unfazed by age, much less current fashion, and stands as one of Cecil Taylor's finest recordings. Very highly recommended.

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