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.
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.
Payne's Window offers further testament to unsung hero Cecil Payne's prowess on the baritone saxophone. Fronting a delightfully swinging sextet that includes pianist Harold Mabern and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, Payne delivers a wonderful mixed bag of originals and standards. Window boasts a nonchalant attitude that allows the music to swing effortlessly. On Payne's humorous "James," Mabern improvises on what seems to be "Mary Had a Little Lamb" as Payne, Alexander, and trombonist Steve Davis punch in with swaggering riffs. Payne's impeccable rhythms are still intact, as on the Latin-tinged "Spiritus Parkus" and "Southside Samba," while tunes like "Lover Man" and "That's It Blues" are imbued with bluesy mellowness. Payne's Window is a no-frills record that rewards with each listening.
Iconoclastic satirist John Waters bites the hand that (periodically) feeds him in this humorous look at the underside of the film industry. Self-styled guerrilla filmmaker Cecil (Stephen Dorff) leads a Baltimore movie-making collective/street gang called the Sprocket Holes, which includes Cecil's girlfriend and frequent leading lady, a low-rent porn actress named Cherish Oh Lordy (Alicia Witt). Desperate for attention, they kidnap famous Hollywood actress Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith) during a Baltimore publicity stop and force her at gunpoint to star in their latest production, Raving Beauty. Before long, Honey comes down with a severe case of Stockholm syndrome and joins the Sprocket Holes in their bid to destroy the mainstream film industry. Waters regulars Ricki Lake, Patty Hearst, and Mink Stole highlight the supporting cast, and techno star Moby contributes to the soundtrack.
Pianist Cecil Gant seemingly materialized out of the wartime mist to create one of the most enduring blues ballads of the 1940s. Gant was past age 30 when he burst onto the scene in a most unusual way — he popped up in military uniform at a Los Angeles war-bonds rally sponsored by the Treasury Department. Private Gant proceeded to electrify the assembled multitude with his piano prowess, leading to his imminent 1944 debut on Oakland's Gilt-Edge Records: the mellow pop-slanted ballad "I Wonder," which topped the R&B charts despite a wartime shellac shortage that hit tiny independent companies like Gilt-Edge particularly hard. Its flip, the considerably more animated "Cecil's Boogie," was a hit in its own right…..
For the second of Cecil Taylor's two Blue Note albums (following Unit Structures), the innovative pianist utilized a sextet comprised of trumpeter Bill Dixon, altoist Jimmy Lyons, both Henry Grimes and Alan Silva on basses and drummer Andrew Cyrille. During the two lengthy pieces, Lyons' passionate solos contrast with Dixon's quieter ruminations while the music in general is unremittingly intense. Both of the Taylor Blue Notes are quite historic and near-classics but, despite this important documentation, Cecil Taylor (other than a pair of Paris concerts) would not appear on records again until 1973.