Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, Enrico Rava: 2 Blues For Cecil

Former Cecil Taylor sidemen pay tribute to their master but avoid imitation, giving emphasis to their own separate and shared experiences

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This improvisatory and innovatory trio first came together at a tribute to Cecil Taylor in New York’s Whitney Museum in April 2016. Even though all were longstanding associates of Taylor himself – Cyrille and Parker in 1964–75 and 1980–91 respectively as members of the Cecil Taylor Unit, Rava in two of Taylor’s international orchestras in the 1980s – they had never actually played together as a trio before.

Taylor himself was present to hear their performance, and after his death in 2018, the trio performed again at a festival in Paris in December 2020 and recorded this set a month later.

Without a piano, there is no attempt by the trio to imitate Taylor’s music. Rather, in a series of four collective improvisations and five compositions alongside one brief concluding standard, they pay tribute to their late master, drawing on their own separate and shared experiences.

If anything, their tribute is a celebration of the post-Taylor diaspora of music-making, showing how today’s musicians are making their own music free from Taylor’s shadow. At times there is a fragility to their work, notably on the hesitant Improvisation No 2, but elsewhere there is a bustling energy, Cyrille’s skittering drums set against Parker’s consistently motoring bass lines and Rava’s undemonstrative horn work.

Throughout, they are content to leave space, to let the music breathe, to allow one musician to solo while the others step back. That space also allows them to be themselves, to float unchained from the need to meet predetermined structural demands.

The two title tracks are both haunting, fully improvised blues led by Rava’s melodic flugelhorn, a long way from anything Taylor himself would have played, but powerful statements none the less. And it is that distance from the source that gives this music such power and imagination.

Discography
Improvisation No 1; Ballerina; Blues For Cecil No 1; Improvisation No 2; Top, Bottom, And What’s In The Middle; Blues For Cecil No 2; Enrava Melody; Overboard; Machu Picchu; My Funny Valentine (70.15)
Cyrille (d); Parker (b); Rava (flh). Paris, France, 1–2 February 2021.
TUM Records CD 059