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Portland Jazz Festival: A Celebration of ECM

Joe Lovano

There are few musicians, if any, jazz or otherwise, who have constantly and consistently pushed the boundaries of structure, tonality and rhythm with the longevity and uncompromising approach of pianist Cecil Taylor. Along with Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra, Taylor revolutionized jazz improvisation and composition in the mid-to-late ’50s-neither Coltrane nor Miles had at that point truly begun to explore the outer regions of composition, and the former was undoubtedly highly influenced by the groundbreaking trio. That the 77-year-old Taylor has continuously recorded and performed extremely challenging music for over 50 years without one blemish of commercial drivel is an extraordinary feat in itself.

Seeing Cecil Taylor live is only predictable in the sense that you know you’re going to hear unbridled improvisation eternally searching for lost chords, alien harmonies and fractured rhythms and melodies. Unlike with some elder jazz statesmen, who often sink into easy sentimentalism or synthetic instrumentation (i.e., synthesizers over pianos), Taylor aggressively attacks each set-even during his more placid moments, an element of aggression exists-with an open mind and the will to discover new sonic territory. His performance at the Jackie McLean-founded Artists Collective was no exception.

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