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A CRY For CECIL TAYLOR, My Avant Gardfather, 1929-2018

Posted by Rick Frystak, May 8, 2019 07:57pm | Post a Comment

Cecil Taylor

Photo by unknown/illustration by Rick Frystak
 

Welcome back to The Choice Bin. It's 1973, UCLA's Royce Hall, a few notches up from what it is today satus-wise as there just weren't many halls to showcase serious music in '73. Big deal anytime or place, these artists in L.A. then, (like say, Stevie Wonder) so the town was abuzz. Cecil Taylor is here to play a solo piano recital. Lee has Rhino stocked. Lingerers linger. Jivers jive. Clowns clown. There's a festival vibe, it was called Newport Jazz Fest west or whatever. This night is just Cecil.

The concert begins. Each note, chord harmony, repetition, arpeggio, triad, cluster, question-and-answer; a sensation of logic and emotion. To some,''noise''. This man went to the New York Conservatory. Cecil is here in UCLA playing a huge 10-foot Bosendorfer piano and the paint is already coming off the walls. Folks are on the edge of their seats.

OMG, it's Cecil my main man, my idol in the ''out'' music. I have "all" his albums. I'm in the SAME ROOM with him! Tonight, Cecil has come from a whisper (he hadn't begun dancing out to the piano yet) to a brilliantly built mountain of sound.

It's getting more and more and more intense when all of a sudden, a man sitting almost dead-center STANDS UP,TAKES OFF HIS SHIRT and begins dancing and...YELLING!! I couldn't believe what I was seeing for a split second, but then that same feeling came over me, but I stayed in my seat. It was like a shot of adrenaline, more exciting than ANYTHING I'd ever heard, right then and there...the physical manifestation of the sounds we were hearing, driving us to yelling!

Cecil Taylor

Some critics were not impressed. “Anyone working with a jackhammer could have achieved the same results,” wrote jazz critic Leonard Feather, in the L.A. Times.

Mr. Taylor left this planet one year ago this month. Cecil was respected around the world, winning grants and receiving fellowships year after year. In 2013 Cecil received the Kyoto Prize, a huge honor in Japan, equivalent to a MacArthur Genius Award. (Cecil is a past recipient of the MacArthur award). Alas, the Kyoto Prize, which amounted to $500,000, was embezzled and swindled from Cecil by a man posing as Cecil's business manager. Leonard Feather should have known that jackhammer operators don't usually receive half-million-dollar cash awards from foreign countries. Leonard had what is known as a,"chip on his shoulder" regarding music such as Taylor's, and the avant garde in general, but the Los Angeles Times dug his jazz criticism for many, many years, for their own reasons. Mr. Taylor had a huge impression on my own appreciation of music and all art, especially the avant garde that was outside the mainstream. I still get a flash of inspiration when I see even his photograph.

“If there’s any justice,” WBGO’s (and former New York Times critic) Nate Chinen wrote, "The New York Times would run its obituary on page A1." It ran on B8 instead.

Justice? Justice is a word not often used in art. Especially art such as Cecil Taylor's. He was swinging his ass off on Love for Sale. He terrorized with Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille on Akisakila.He boxed with Coltrane on Stereo Drive. He blew Rudy Van Gelder's mind on Conquistador! and Unit Structures' composition with unbridled energy. On Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly Fly he does just that. Figurative machinery grew and then played and played and played in The Feel Trio with Tony Oxley. Cecil, may you rest in power. We miss you terribly. There is and will be no other like you.

 

Photo by Peggy Jarrell Kaplan



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