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Cecil Taylor: Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come

Originally issued domestically as a double LP on Arista-Freedom, Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come documents a pivotal period in pianist Cecil Taylor’s evolution. Recorded a single night during a seven-week trio stand at Copenhagen’s Cafe Montmartre in late 1962, this two-CD collection-which includes over 20 minutes of material not included on the LPs-is both a culmination of Taylor’s early recastings of blues and song forms, and a preview of his later expansiveness. The album also constitutes an extensive early chapter in the historic partnership between Taylor and alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, which lasted until Lyons’ death in ’86. It also marked the pianist’s last recording with groundbreaking (or glass-breaking) drummer Sunny Murray until ’80’s It Is In The Brewing Luminous (hat ART).

The first disc commences with three performances that are like stripped-down counterparts to the quintet/septet tracks included on Gil Evans’ ’61 Into The Hot (Impulse!). On these pieces, Taylor lays out the materials in concise, moody introductions, Lyons raises the temperature with bluesy, motive-based essays, and both of them bob and keel on Murray’s swirling ametric whitecaps. While Taylor’s pianistic lexicon was expanding beyond even such early triumphs as the ’60-’61 Candid dates, he still anchored these compositions with relatively conventional ballad structures (“Call”) and chord patterns (“Lena”).

The spiky title piece, however, is more of a harbinger of ’66’s Unit Structures (Blue Note).

As Taylor’s ability to sustain his ideas with constantly unfolding imagination and unflagging energy is central to his music, it is not surprising that the longer performances (recorded presumably in later sets) are the most significant. The 20 minute-plus “D Trad, That’s What,” a second, extended version of “Lena,” and an unidentified bonus track, feature roiling exchanges between Taylor, Lyons, and Murray that approach the level of such late Lyons-era masterpieces as ’81’s The Eighth (hat ART) (The latter track is called “Untitled Sample” on an earlier Japanese CD incarnation; the other bonus track is a shorter, more eruptive version of “Call”).

The collection also includes an exhilarating version of “What’s New?,” which makes some instructive connections between Taylor and Don Pullen.

Except for his ’60s take of “This Nearly Was Mine” for Candid, “What’s New?” is Taylor’s best interpretation of a standard.

Originally Published