Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Cecil Taylor/Bill Dixon/Tony Oxley: Cecil Taylor Bill Dixon Tony Oxley

Now in his 70s, pianist Cecil Taylor has more strength and stamina than many musicians half his age. But recent recordings like The Willisau Concert (Intakt) suggest that Taylor has slowed by a nanosecond or two, his legendary raw voltage being replaced by what is by historical standards a mellower revelry. There are distinctive new fingering patterns at the core of this shift, which arguably require a more strenuous discipline than Taylor’s crashing clusters of the ’70s. These tendencies are very much in evidence in his high-profile encounter with trumpeter Bill Dixon and drummer Tony Oxley at the 2002 Victoriaville festival, issued by the festival’s label with impressive speed. Many of the seeds of Taylor’s current work were sown with Oxley and bassist William Parker in the Feel Trio of the late ’80s and early ’90s, a pivotal unit finally given its due with the 10-CD 2 Ts for a Lovely T. Heard in tandem with Verve’s reissue of Taylor’s seminal ’57 Newport set, these recordings reveal how Taylor’s music continues to evolve almost a half-century later.

Aspects of the three tunes Taylor recorded at Newport with soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, bassist Buell Neidlinger and drummer Denis Charles (whose first name was misspelled as Dennis for decades) now seem almost quaint. Flashes of Taylor’s affinity for Ellington are tucked among the jolting crossover riffs and thick chromatic passages. In the opening in-the-pocket ensemble, he lovingly jostles Strayhorn’s “Johnny Come Lately,” underscoring Lacy’s blues-drenched lilt. Now that his piano lexicon is familiar, if not assimilated, it is also easier to hear the wistful lyricism of original compositions like “Tune 2.” Certainly, Taylor’s innovations are overshadowing-“Nona’s Blues” is a prime early example of what Neidlinger termed “compression and release,” the exhilarating intensification and restatement of tempo. Still, much of what continues to drive Taylor’s music is here in embryonic form; revisiting it now confirms that jazz was a nurturing womb for Taylor’s music.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published