Mwanji Enzana's blog recently featured a note on the continued interest in behearer.com, the wonderful re-accounting of (loosely speaking) "jazz" during the Dark Ages (click on the link for the timetable for the Northsea Jazz Festival, July 1982) of disco and Flock of Seagulls, etc., namely, 1970-1990. Dave Douglas, Ethan Iverson and others went into a kind of list-making frenzy, and the results are generally excellent. If I could figure out how to edit the galldurned lists by year, I would add several recordings by a major figure in American music during this period, someone whose compositional and pianistic strategies emerged in a wholly new way (on record anyway) and then went through at least two other major transitions during this period: Cecil Taylor
Not that Taylor is ignored by the Behearer project. 9 of his recordings are listed for this 20 year period. Compare that, however, to Mr. Taylor's discography for the same period: at least 25 recordings, and that's counting the 11-CD FMP 1988 marathon as one release (the FMP box set is listed on Behearer, in its entirety, as one entry, "Berlin '88.")
Taylor recordings that were essential to me during this period and that I think could easily be argued belong on the lists include:
1973- Indent, Akisakila, Spring of Two Blue J's
1976- Dark Unto Themselves, Air Above Mountains (Buildings Within)
1978- Cecil Taylor Unit, One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye
1979- Max Roach/Cecil Taylor Historic Concerts
1980- It Is In The Brewing Luminous
1981- The Eighth
1984- Segments II: Orchestra of Two Continents Winged Serpents/Sliding Quadrants
1986- Olu Iwa
1990- Double Holy House
Notes by year:
Indent (and its equally stunning counterpart, "Solo," an obscure Japanese release on Trio Records) heralds the "new" Taylor brilliantly. It stands in stark contrast to any of his earlier periods and makes for fascinating listening A/B-ed with "Praxis," another obscure solo piano recording, supposedly from 1968. Akisakila features unbelievable and unrelenting energy and inventiveness from a bare bones trio with Andrew Cyrille and Jimmy Lyons. Some of the most remarkable "free jazz" drumming in the history of the music. Spring of Two Blue J's is simply gorgeous.
Dark Unto Themselves (sometimes erroneously called "Dark to Themselves," an error Inner City Records made that lingers) is absolutely ripping and features the buzzsaw drama of David S. Ware, ballsy trumpet from Raphe Malik, and the roiling and precise drumming of Marc Edwards. The composition is extraordinary as well, and meticulously arranged. Air Above Mountains (Buildings Within) is yet another revelation in the solo Taylor catalogue, somehow managing to be a flood-like onslaught of ideas yet minimalist.
Two recordings spotlighting the landmark Unit of CT, one of the greatest groups in the history of jazz: Jimmy Lyons, Raphe Malik, Ramsey Ameen, Sirone and Ronald Shannon Jackson. The Cecil Taylor Unit is the New World Records counterpart to "3 Phasis," which is listed at Behearer. It's especially remarkable to follow the much more ballad-like swells and tidal shifts on this one. As for One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye, it is, quite simply, one of the all time great albums, regardless of style, time period, what have you. It's an epic, even in its edited three record original release, clocking in at more than 2 hours. The CD resissue includes some stunning solos and duets that were a prelude. I've owned this recording since it was released and have yet to absorb it. Every time I sit with it I hear new things.
The Max Roach/Cecil Taylor duets from 1979 are *essential listening* for anyone and everyone. Hard to believe this recording is not on the list.
It Is In The Brewing Luminous is a gorgeous set featuring both Sunny Murray and Jerome Cooper, with particularly stunning solos from Jimmy Lyons and a great, massive yet delicate overall swing.
The Eighth, originally released as "Calling It The Eighth," in edited form, is especially worthy due to the constantly surprising and sensitive interplay of William Parker and Rashid Bakr.
Winged Serpents/Sliding Quadrants...How could this not be on the list as a shoe in? Relatively brief excursions featuring Taylor's indelible mark as composer and arranger. Great ensemble playing. Burnin' solos. In some ways this is a distillation of everything Taylor had done to this point.
Olu Iwa is a fascinating, layered recording. It marks yet another transition for Taylor into different territory. Check the personnel: Earl McIntyre, Peter Brotzmann, Frank Wright, Thurman Barker, William Parker, Steve McCall.
A new chapter in Taylor's solo approach is represented by Double Holy House. His ritualized spoken word and percussion is dubbed over solo piano. The piano atmospheres are more spacious, more explicitly bluesy, gloriously percussive and rumbling with low notes.
Admittedly this is a lot of Taylor. But one could argue that the period from 1970-1990 was his most prolific, his most unrelenting and tenacious in the face of overwhelmingly depressing antithetical forces in America. Sad that almost all of these recordings were recorded or released in Europe. But maybe including more Taylor from 1970-1990 on Behearer is some slight way to remedy that.
Wrapping up this Taylor-like, epic post, I'm spinning "The Eighth." Jimmy Lyons! I had forgotten that the proceedings are launched by a Lyons solo. The fiery and sure backing of Parker and Bakr, and Taylor's earth-rattling dialogue with Lyons: simply not to be missed.