Cecil Taylor: The World Of Cecil Taylor

The pianist said he wanted his music to speak for itself. On this 1960 session with Archie Shepp it suggests driving, organised chaos


Recorded in 1960, this was Taylor’s fifth LP and his first for Candid Records. That company employed an ideal producer in Nat Hentoff, a jazz writer and historian who knew a thing or two about the way jazz was heading back in those days. He produced some strikingly good original sessions through the unlikely pairings of Coleman Hawkins with Pee Wee Russell and Clark Terry with Yusef Lateef. He also gave leader dates to Booker Little, one of the best of the upcoming modern trumpeters and recorded blues masters like Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Whether by Taylor’s choice or Hentoff’s, putting Archie Shepp on tenor sax on two selections on this session was, to say the least, an inspired idea. Shepp was, I believe, still with Taylor after this recording when the quartet played on stage for the jazz play The Connection.

Taylor kicks off with his own composition, Air, where his lightning runs along the keyboard are as clear and bright as his improvisations. And when he uses dense clusters in that unique manner of his it still swings, aided by the driving rhythmic support of Neidlinger and Charles.

This Nearly Was Mine is a different proposition altogether. Taylor starts with an improvised opening and moves into a dense, comprehensive improvised set of choruses where he never loses sight of the melody for an instant. Even though he almost recomposes the piece he constantly plays the melody right until the last note. As Martin Williams and Neidlinger point out in the sleeve note he also attempts to turn the composition into a blues.

Archie Shepp contributes a tentative solo on the opening Air, perhaps because he was concentrating on keeping true to Taylor’s style of playing, which he seems to have admired. The last track, Lazy Afternoon, finds him fully engaged in the music and playing a coruscating solo that fits in well with the musical moment.

Port Of Call has Taylor in inventive mood again, composing, or appearing to, from the keyboard. E.B. is meant to refer to everybody, according to Taylor. The pianist always said that he didn’t want discussion of his music as he hoped it would always speak for itself. With Taylor’s form of driving, organised chaos I think that on this release it does.

Regarding the front-cover image, it seems Candid have used the cover for the LP (CLP 30061) as cover for this CD. The CD catalogue number is indeed, as below, CCD 30062.

Air; This Nearly Was Mine; Port Of Call; E.B.; Lazy Afternoon (47.23)
Taylor (p); Buell Neidlinger (b); Dennis Charles (d); Archie Shepp (ts). NYC, 1960.
Candid CCD 30062