taylor

With the passing of Cecil Taylor it could be argued that jazz has lost another titan. But the pianist was never defined by the word 'jazz', let alone music in the broadest sense. Taylor wrote poetry, often disarmingly abstract, that was inextricably linked to his interest in language and culture, which in turn led to a range of Afro-centric and surreal titles for his recordings, be it Nefertitti, The Beautiful One Has Come, It's In The Brewing Luminous or One Too Many Salty Swift And Not Goodbye. Furthermore, there was a deep fascination with choreography and movement, which coalesced with his commitment to spoken word and music in both humorous and engaging ways. When Taylor played an unforgettable duet with drummer Max Roach at the Barbican in London in 1999 he first did a solo set, entering the stage in futurist leggings and jersey, trademark skullcap and antennae dreads – his sartorial style caught the eye as much as his music the ear – and executed some playful pirouettes as he recited verse. Taylor told me sometime before the concert: "When you go right into battle with Maximilian you have to be fully armed and ready", as a mark of great respect for his equally inspirational partner, as well as of his commitment to the demanding art of spontaneous composition, which he saw as a kind of ballet in beats or intense corps-a-corps with others where there was no room for compromise on form and content.

Raised in Queens, New York, Taylor was immersed in music from an early age, playing piano at six before going on to study at the New York College of Music and New England Conservatory, and while his initial work in the 1950s showed his absorption of the techniques of Tatum, Ellington and Monk, it also provided a glimpse of the lexicon he would subsequently develop. Taylor took the percussive playing of his forebears to new heights, creating barrages of polyrhythms and juddering motifs, often at high tempo, in which the right hand, rather than stating just one theme, acted practically as a whirling ride cymbal while the left sculpted pithy melody like a bass drum. The low end was as much a well of lyricism as it was chordal accompaniment. Constant momentum, whirlwind tonalities and unbroken streams of ideas, no matter how abrasive, were among Taylor's key contributions to post-war piano vocabulary.

Like many other American improvisers Taylor was interested in European composers such as Bartók but, perhaps cognizant of the ways of his mother, a renowned dancer, he brought torrid physicality to his music between the 1960s and noughties. His classic group albums, such as Unit Structures, Conquistador, Winged Serpent (Sliding Quadrants) and 3 Phasis, saw him work with brilliant players such as Jimmy Lyons, Sunny Murray, William Parker, Gunter Hampel, Tomasz Stańko and David S.Ware among others, while his several majestic solo albums, such as Air Above Mountains, underlined his ability to use the keyboard as a source of great orchestral richness.

Taylor had quite a mischievous side to his character that often led to slights on other musicians, but his influence, heard in anybody from Don Pullen and Matthew Shipp to Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer and Alexander Hawkins, has been immense. A rebellious, subversive and cerebral figure, Taylor was a very complex person, a man fully aware of many kinds of minority status who challenged stereotypes and claimed ownership of his aesthetic, professing as much in the expression Dark To Themselves.

– Kevin Le Gendre
– Photo by Joe Chonto

The heavyweight jazz quotient at this year's Love Supreme Jazz Festival gets a boost with news that iconic saxophonist and spiritual jazz guru Pharoah Sanders will be appearing among several strong additions to the line-up. Also announced is influential drummer Chris Dave, one-time sideman to Robert Glasper, who will feature with his neo-soul outfit The Drumhedz, while another Glasper affiliate, singer Lalah Hathaway, has also been added to the bill.

Further additions include jazz-funk stars Level 42 fronted by original thumb-heavy bassist Mark King and keyboardist Mike Lindup, while Swiss piano rhythm-king Nik Bärtsch; top UK vibes man Orphy Robinson's All Stars' award-winning Bobby Hutcherson Tribute Project; Mercury-nominated saxophonist Denys Baptiste's The Late Trane band; emerging jazz vocal talent Oscar Jerome and multi-award winning jazz singer Ian Shaw and his Trio have also been added to the bill.

These names join those already announced in Jazzwise, who are festival media partners, and include Earth, Wind & Fire; Crosscurrents (featuring Zakir Hussain, Dave Holland and Chris Potter); George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic; Elvis Costello; Steve Winwood; Dwight Trible with the Gondwana Orchestra; Moses Boyd Exodus; Ezra Collective; Zara McFarlane; Nubya Garcia; Yazz Ahmed; Alfa Mist; Keyon Harrold; Curtis Harding; Songhoy Blues; PP Arnold; Portico Quartet; Mr Jukes and Moonchild.

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.lovesupremefestival.com

Emerging Scottish drum talent Andrew Bain hits the road with a stellar band to support the recent release of his album Embodied Hope (Whirlwind Recordings) with a string dates in Scotland, England and Spain. Leading a powerful quartet of renowned US saxophonist Jon Irabagon (best known as a member of Mostly Other People Do the Killing), acclaimed Portland pianist George Colligan and virtuoso bassist (and WWR label boss) Michael Janisch, Bain powers-up his album's episodic suite, which was described in by Robert Shore in Jazzwise as being "imbued with liquid experimental magic, conjured by a group of talented improvisers".

UK and European dates are: The Blue Arrow, Glasgow (3 April); The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (4-5 April); East Side Jazz Club, Birmingham (9 April); Clasijazz, Almeria, Spain (11 April); Jimmy Glass, Valencia, Spain (12 April); Sheffield Jazz Club, Sheffield (13 April) and Vortex Jazz Club, London (14 April).

– Mike Flynn

For more info visit whirlwindrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/embodied-hope

 JATT-1057w-ScottFriedlander

ECM Records chose experimental arts venue Roulette, in Brooklyn, to host a musical tribute to the memory of John Abercrombie, the great guitarist having died in August 2017. The label had gathered together an astounding collection of guest artists (collaborators and friends) to reinterpret his music under the banner Timeless: A Tribute To His Life And Music. Ralph Towner was beset by an acute ear infection in Rome, but everyone else was confirmed, and already in the house. Nate Chinen of NPR (National Public Radio) acted as MC, weaving in reminiscences and direct quotes from the guitarist's admirers, introducing a continuing two-hour-and-more sequence of small group combinations. Unsurprisingly, Roulette was at full capacity, with a queue stretching right along Atlantic Avenue.

JATT-1351w-ScottFriedlander

The first few numbers were very mellow and introverted, with Bill Frisell leading the way, partnered by Mark Feldman (violin), Thomas Morgan (bass) and Joey Baron (drums), for a set of delicate and expressionist moods. Nels Cline was up next, in more reined-in mode, with Peter Erskine (drums) and Marc Copland (piano) joining him, the latter doubling as the evening's musical director. The night was building up a softly loungey quality, until John Scofield and Baron returned, to play 'Even Steven', from 1984's Solar, which Abercrombie called 'the bebop album'. He was often dedicated to tranquil exploration, but also had his turbulent, grooving side. Scofield used the blues as a base, but edged them with cowboy frills, Baron broke out his power-hits. He had a big sound, even on the brushes, making tight exchanges with Scofield, the latter sticking around as saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Adam Nussbaum entered. They played 'Easy Reader' and 'Within A Song', the combination of Lovano, Scofield and Nussbaum facilitating a bombastic release. Hornmen Dave Liebman and Randy Brecker cooled down the proceedings, and then the show's final run also returned to a calm state as Frisell came back to deliver a pair of tunes from 1975's Timeless album, 'Ralph's Piano Waltz' and its title number, two of Abercrombie's best-known pieces.

Jack DeJohnette was an august presence, but his drumming was restrained and subtle, following the fiery flashes of Baron and Nussbaum. Also in the house were Evan Parker, Tim Berne (not playing) and ECM founder Manfred Eicher. Besides Abercrombie's undoubted significance as a jazz guitarist, time and again, his old friends alluded to his charming, yet slightly spiky, sense of humour, his generosity, and his self-deprecating wisdom. This was a man who was warmly loved by all of his peers, disciples and students. All proceeds from the concert went to a new scholarship in Abercrombie's name, and contributions are still being gratefully received.

– Martin Longley 
– Photos by Scott Friedlander

The new monthly concert series, Studio Jazz Thursdays, continues its monthly run at the Other Palace, the salubrious basement music venue beneath the Palace Theatre that's a stone's throw from Victoria Station in London. Promoted by JBGB Events, each night has a distinct theme, ranging across a wide variety of jazz styles.

So far featuring saxophonist Alan Barnes' Plays Duke Ellington, and pianist Chris Ingham's Music of Horace Silver with his Rebop band, things continue with esteemed pianist Darius Brubeck's Quartet (pictured, 10 May); soul-jazz singer Noel McCalla and Derek Nash's take on the Stevie Wonder songbook under the banner Some Kind Of Wonderful (14 June) while rising star trumpeter Freddie Gavita appears with his Quartet (12 July). Further jazz concerts at the Other Palace include the A Centruy of 100 Songs with two leading UK jazz singers Liane Carroll (3 May) and Elaine Delmar (7 June).

For full details visit www.theotherpalace.co.uk

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