By the time of his Paris concert, Cecil Taylor's quartet had reached a particularly high level of musical communication. Not only did altoist Jimmy Lyons (whose sound but not choice of notes was sometimes close to Charlie Parker's) find a place for himself in the dense ensembles, but one can hear him and the pianist/leader echoing each other's phrases in spots.
Released on LP in 1966, Cecil Taylor's Student Studies is an anomaly from his other recordings of the era. Not purely improvised, Taylor uses arranged sections and built-in segments for thematic and improvisational space. His meditations on short tonal studies and propulsive bursts of energy became signifiers of his later music. The band here, including Jimmy Lyons, bassist Alan Silva, and drummer Andrew Cyrille, registered with Taylor's fluid disciplinary approach to atonalism and dissonance, and found room to actually swing in. In fact, the influences Taylor spoke of most often during the era – Ellington, Bud Powell, and Mingus, can be traced here, if not heard outright.
It is a well rehearsed story that some of the major innovators of modern jazz were, in the early 1960s, struggling to get recording contracts or gigs in America. This led players like Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor to try their hand across the Atlantic. These players found a particularly warm reception in Scandinavia, and live recordings from any of these in Sweden or Denmark are well worth looking out for. This nicely packaged reissue captures Taylor’s performances at Copenhagen’s Café Montmartre, with three bonus tracks recorded at Stockholm’s Golden Circle. For fans of Taylor, the material (with the exception of the bonus tracks which have not been previously released) will be familiar from the Live! At the Café Montmartre and Nefertiti: the beautiful one has come. This set comes with a booklet with the sleeve notes from these previous releases, featuring Erik Weidermann’s insightful comments on the performances and the developments of Taylor’s playing.
This four-part suite for piano and violin was commissioned by the Library of Congress, and recorded in performance there in February of 1999. It was composed by Taylor, but the liner notes indicate that what Taylor provided in terms of a score was idiosyncratic – columns of individual notes along with "symbols and scribbles to suggest attacks, transitions, etc." Violinist Mat Maneri took a day to figure out his part based on Taylor's unorthodox score, and the resulting performance is what you might expect: basically a set of four improvisations based on a sketch of musical ideas.