INTAKT RECORDS – CD-REVIEWS
Cecil Taylor

Cecil Taylor. The Willisau Concert. Intakt CD 072

 

Best Jazz CDs of 2002. Village Voice, New York
A magnificent solo tour de force, and if I had to choose one, this would be album of the year. Everyone for whom I've played the opening passage is instantly seduced. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to follow a 50-minute movement. Think of it, then, as a short opera, its variations logical, broadly romantic, and often overwhelming. Perhaps his finest recital on records.

Gary Giddins, Village Voice, New York, USA, January 6th, 2003

 

Annual critics pool "Top Jazz" of Musica Jazz, Italia: The Willisau Concert of Cecil Taylor has the second place in the annual critics pool "Top Jazz" of Musica Jazz.
Musica Jazz, Italia, January, 2003


Emphatically Recommended
It's been quite a few years since I've listened to pianist, Cecil Taylor's classic solo performance, Silent Tongues. However, with his latest solo endeavor, recorded live, September 3, 2000 at the «Jazzfestival Willisau,» in Switzerland - the pianist has added yet another astounding entry into his already rich recorded legacy. The thrust of this outing commences with the fifty-minute work, titled «Willisau Concert Part 1.» Here, we are treated to Taylor's exhaustive explorations and spider-like manipulations of his grand piano keyboard. With this release, the artist intertwines gigantic block chords with contrapuntal flurries amid his complex sense of rhythm, as Taylor's creative genius surfaces throughout. At times, it's almost like being fixated in a time warp, as Taylor dishes out subtle melodies in concert with multi-layered micro themes. (You'd swear there were two pianists performing.) We can also thank the audio engineers for their shrewd mic placement and exquisite recording processes. Thus, the listener gets to experience the live dynamic in multidimensional fashion! Taylor's improvisational techniques and thematic development could be akin to reading chapters in a book, where the various plots are divulged in sequential fashion. On the first piece and the thirteen-minute «Willisau Concert Part 2,» Taylor renders slanted discourses along with multidirectional frameworks via his muscular attack and acrobatic maneuvers. «Willisau Concert Parts 3 thru 5» clock in at less than two minutes each, although at this juncture, he may have depleted the audience's energy. Yet these short works appear to be minor extensions of the first part. Greatness can be an ongoing trait! And where others might fail, Taylor succeeds in often awe-inspiring fashion. Hence, a notion that becomes quite significant during this stunningly executed magnum opus! (Emphatically Recommended)
Glenn Astarita , April 2002, USA, www.allaboutjazz.com

 

One of Cecil Taylor's finest recordings
AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Cecil Taylor had released numerous albums of solo recitals, and picking the best out of such a stellar crop is next to impossible. At the very least, it's safe to say that among his recordings after having reached the ripe age of 70, The Willisau Concert is among the very best and that it sits comfortably alongside discs like Indent, Silent Tongues, and Double Holy House. Since around 1970, in one sense Taylor, especially when playing solo, reiterates the same immensely deep composition time and time again. One hears almost the same motifs, usually subtly altered, a profound appreciation of the blues (if rarely directly stated), and an attack that, even if it had mellowed somewhat over the years, retained a hugely proud and rigorous character. Here, he battles a luxurious sounding Boesendorfer into submission, making rich use of its extra low notes; there's almost always a rumbling going on. His unyielding invention is at the forefront as he wrings variation upon sublime invention on his repository of melodic lines, never noodling about in search of inspiration, always somehow summoning it directly to his fingertips. The live performance is sliced into five sections. A lengthy main portion seemingly leaving no stone unturned is both beautiful and exhausting on it own. But then, as though Taylor realized there were things left unsaid, he launches into a stunning 13-minute postlude, breathtaking in its touch and level of emotion. In an embarrassment of riches, he adds three brief and exquisite addenda, achieving a delicacy and depth unmatched by any of his peers in the music. The Willisau Concert shows a grandmaster as yet unfazed by age, much less current fashion, and stands as one of Cecil Taylor's finest recordings. Very highly recommended. -- ( * * * * 1/2)
Brian Olewnick, All Music Guide, USA, 2002 (http://www.allmusic.com)


No pianist has ever been more fluent in the paterns of the blues
The scale of Cecil Taylor's solo performances has always frustrated meaningful commentary. What is there, really, to say before the sheer engaged mass of these performances, works of Hammerklavier dimensions, but each one its own, its interior achitexcture fluid and yet distinct, its apparent mass ever malleable in Taylor's unified mind and hands. In this performance from Steptember 2000, Taylor is in genuine communion with the Bosendorfer. Int the 50 minutes of «Part 1,» he elaborates on a dance between impulse and history, the personal and the universal, sometimes exploring tense complexities, sometimes exploding with joy. The 13-minute «Part 2» is a darkly moody, minor rumination that makes explicit Taylor's membership in a school of jazz pinao rooted in Monk and Powell and including Hope, Weston, Waldron, et al. No pianist has ever been more fluent in the paterns of the blues. Highly recommended.
Stuart Broomer, Coda. The Journal of Jazz & Improvised Music, Canada, July/August 2002

 

4 1/2-Star Review. Downbeat
Taylor begins this September 2000 concert with a single, well-placed note. The 50-minute improvisations that follows finds him in an energetic mood, weaving thorny phrases into a piece that is more higly charged than many of his recent solo recitals. As the liner notes state, Taylor couldn't get enough of the 97-key Bösendorfer he was assigned, and the recording engineer certainly does it justice, giving it an especially rich and textured bottom and an crystalline clarty up top. A second, shorter piece is dominated by relatively languid movements that beg choreography, although midway through Taylor begins to thicken his attack with swirling clusters and dramatic flourishes. Three encore miniatures alternate between furiously hammered runs and sustained chords.
James Hale, Downbeat, February 2003


Cecil Taylor
Klingende Rorschach-Tafe
l
Das Spiel des bald siebzigjährigen Cecil Taylor ist einzigartig und unerreicht. Da hat ein Pianist quasi ex nihilo eine Klangsprache und eine Improvisationskunst entwickelt, die von der Jazzgemeinschaft über Jahrzehnte unverstanden blieben und abgelehnt wurden. Taylor liess sich vom mangelnden Erfolg nicht von seinem Weg abbringen und gilt heute bei einer kleinen Schar Musikfreunde als Kultfigur. Seine Soloauftritte werden regelmässig unwiederholbare Sternstunden der freien Erfindung, kein Rezital gleicht dem andern. Als Taylor im Jahre 2000 auf einem gepflegten und sorgfältig gestimmten Bösendorfer Imperial eine gute Stunde lang improvisierte, waren die Mikrophone des Schweizer Radios DRS glücklicherweise aufgestellt, und das Band lief - obwohl der exzentrische Solist nicht einmal die geplante Pause abwartete und bereits musizierte, als das Publikum im Saal seine Plätze einnahm. Nach schwierigen Verhandlungen hat es das Zürcher Label Intakt geschafft, Taylors Einverständnis für die Publikation der Aufnahme zu erhalten. Das Resultat ist beglückend. In den zunächst chaotisch wirkenden Klangkaskaden und Clusters, die keinem festen Puls folgen, entdeckt man bei sorgfältigem Hören rhythmische und motivische Strukturen sowie Anspielungen an unterschiedlichste Kapitel der Klaviermusik. So vielfältig sind die entstehenden Assoziationen, dass wir gar nicht erst beginnen möchten, diese klingende Rorschach-Tafel zu zerreden. Dies ist zweifellos die erste ganz gewichtige Jazz-CD des neuen Jahres.
Nick Liebmann, © Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2002-02-21

 

Selten war sich die gesamte Jazz-Kritikergilde nach einem Konzert beim Jazz Festival Willisau so einig und gab es derart enthusiastische Berichte und Kritiken wie nach dem 70-minutigen Pianosolo-Rezital des grossen Klavierrevolutionärs und wichtigsten Piano-Avantgardisten der jüngeren Jazzgeschichte beim Willisau-Festival 2000. Einerseits war überraschend, mit welchem Potential an Kraft, Ausdauer und Energie und mit welcher fast magischen Überzeugungskraft der 71-jährige Tastenzauberer nach wie vor seine Botschaft formulieren und auch vermitteln kann, andererseits verblüffte total, welche bisher kaum je bei ihm gehörten Ebenen leisen, ja fast romantisch-impressionistischen Ausdrucks da plötzlich zutage traten. Natürlich gab es wie bei allen, auch grossen, frei improvisierenden MusikerInnen, die sich in ihrem Spiel auf die spontane Eingebung und das erhoffte Mass an Augenblicksinspiration verlassen und damit bewusst ein gestalterisches Risisko eingehen, auch weniger ereignisreiche Sequenzen; und natürlich blieb Cecil Taylor seinen pianistischen Stil-, Form- und Ausdrucksmitteln treu, das heisst, er verwendete die für ihn typischen, energiegeladenen und pulsierenden Clusterfolgen, Akkordläufe und Motivketten. Aber wie er diese gewohnten Spielmodelle mit neuen, dramatisch anmutenden Spannungszentren und Emotionswellen auflud, das war einzigartig und unter die Haut gehend! Ein Ereignis, dass es diese SR DRS2-Live-Aufnahme vom 3.9.2000 - Tonmeister Martin Pearson! - jetzt auf CD gibt. (5 Noten, Höchstbewertung)
Johannes Anders © JAZZ'N'MORE, Zürich, Nr.1/2002, Februar/März

 

 

What, after all these years, is there left to say about a new Cecil Taylor session? That it's excellent? That at 73, after a recording career stretching back to 1956, the pianist still has the execution, stamina and font of ideas of someone half his age -- if that isn't being ageist? (As an aside it will be interesting -- but most likely disappointing -- to audit the wares of some of today's more vaulted young lions when they reach their forties or fifties, let alone their seventies.) Probably the clearest understanding of what went on that day comes from the booklet note writer. He explains that Taylor was so eager to create on the 97-key Bösendorfer piano procured for him at this Swiss festival that he sat down and started playing before the intermission separating his set from the proceeding one had officially ended. Long time Taylor adherents will also note what is missing during the course of his almost 711/2 minute and groans and, as a matter of fact, many silences. Also, after pummeling the "tuned drums" for a little more than 50 minutes in the first section, then pouring his all into a 13 minute plus encore, the audience forces Taylor to play three additional encores, which he limits to slightly more than one minute each. Obviously it's the longest piece that's most distinctive; combing as it does the mixture of violence and delicacy that characterizes Taylor's work. The point about his creation, which has always offended jazz dilettantes such as filmmaker Ken Burns -- and dare one say the Marsalis brothers -- is that he brooks no compromise. Listening to Taylor, the audience must agree to enter into his sound world. Listeners must lose themselves in his singular perception and consecrate the sort of attention to it that many people feel is only appropriate for a thorough examination of their stock portfolio. These folks want entertainment value and simple, jocular melodies and don't want to accept mere improvised music that way. Why, of course, seriousness must be reserved for Beethoven, Brahms, Stravinsky or other designated official art is a subject for sociological examination, not a musical one. Even for a so-called jazz musician, Taylor's often measureless tales are difficult, with their closest parallel the late music of John Coltrane, who incidentally once recorded with the pianist. Again, people with little knowledge of his work, imagine that his conception is more forbidding than it is. Audiences now know what to expect and sometimes at a concert, a non-believer will be converted right on the spot. Like Coltrane, Derek Bailey, Lester Young or other instrumental prototypes, Taylor's style is instantaneously recognizable as soon as he plays a few notes. Most of his sounds slide from medium to accelerated tempo, with repeated patterns, distinctive splashes of arpeggios and knife sharp torque part of the equation. Patterns include particular shadings of notes, reoccurring treble soundings, low, low left-handed asides and vigorous, full forearm smashed note clusters. Trying to fully analyze his style, though, is like enumeration the paint samples in a Jackson Pollock creation: self-defeating. Instead most allow themselves to be swept along like the undertow in an ocean. With his endless energy and constant flow of ideas, what is produced is exclusively Cecil Taylor music. That's why over the years in jazz there have been many little Teddy Wilsons and little Oscar Petersons and little Bud Powells and little Bill Evans, but never a pretender to the Taylor throne. Like Duke Ellington, another early influence, the pianist is beyond category. Those who put younger keyboard explorers like Marilyn Crispell or Matthew Shipp into a supposed Taylor school have obviously never listened carefully to any of the pianists. Surprisingly, considering the strength that was exhibited in the longest improvisation here, the second is quieter, more restrained and filled with lyrical repeated patterns. Aurally Taylor appears to be barely touching the keys, while accelerated arpeggios are often succeeded by unexpected glissandos. The three final tracks are merely decorations, as amusing as they are short. Again, what more can be said about THE WILLISAU CONCERT except that it's another exceptional Taylor performance and proof that his talents are as potent as ever in the 21st century and his eighth decade of life. --
Ken Waxman, April 2002, www.jazzweekly.com

 

Cecil Taylor's tremendous harmonic imagination emerges just moments into this five part, solo piano performance, proof positive that the grand master's skills remain precise and finely-honed well into this new millennium.
The fact that Taylor's pianistic concept is all-encompassing--synthesizing pan-tonal, chromatic, and diatonic resources--has lead to inaccurate assessments and value judgments with regard to atonality, which, according to the theorist, George Russell, is the complete negation of tonal centers, either horizontally or vertically.
The extended first movement in fact bears witness to a tonal-center based approach not unlike that explored by some of the early 20th century composers such Debussy and Albeniz, where motives or thematic cells based on tonal centers provide multiple points of departure for the performer. Narrow harmonic viewpoints are simply not part of this advanced aesthetic, which is all about contrast, dialogue, and their cumulative expressive effect. It also suggests the degree to which Taylor is not in the least bit disconnected from music history.
For new listeners especially, this is an opportunity to hear one of the great performers of our time.
James D. Armstrong, Jr. Editor, Jazz Now, The Jazz World Magazin, 04/02 (http://www.jazznow.com)

 

Ein kostbares Stück
Das erste Stück dauert 51 Minuten. Aber was ist ein Stück, wenn Cecil Taylor am Flügel sitzt und ganz und gar in der Musik aufgeht? Die sanften bis brachialen Evolutionen kommen folgerichtig und ohne Vorwarnung, weil Cecil Taylor immer schon dort ist, wohin man musikalisch beflügelt permanent aufbricht. Taylor bringt Dichteverhältnisse zum Schmelzen, überwindet Zeitgräben, macht Richtungswechsel zum Geradeaus.
Die tiefen Register des Flügels können donnernd hallen, während die Rechte wahre Wirbeltänze vollführt. Es ist auf den Aufnahmen geradezu spürbar, wie es aus Cecil Taylor drängte, wie «spitz» er auf das Spielen und Loslassen war, als er sich nach der Pause an den Flügel setzte und zu spielen begann, bevor das Publikum richtig versammelt war. «Wenn Taylor am Flügel sitzt, gibt es keine Distanz mehr, keine abgeklärte, coole Interpretation. Es ist ein unmittelbarer Kampf», schreibt Meinrad Buholzer in seinen lesenswerten Liner-Notes.
Die Art und Weise, wie Cecil Taylor mit der Musik umgeht und sich von ihr hinreissen lässt, hat eine existenzielle Note. Sie macht offenbar, was mit Kunst auch noch gemeint sein könnte, jenseits von Marktstrategien und Gefälligkeitsmechanismen. Ein lauteres Sich-Einlassen. Ein magisches Ritual, das nicht als solches gefeiert wird, sondern nur die angemessene Form ist, das Unaussprechliche zuzulassen. Zen am Bösendorfer. Mit drei musikalischen Haikus beendete Taylor sein Konzert und stibitzte sich von dannen. Der Jazzgigant war ungefähr siebzig Jahre alt, als er im letzten Sommer am Jazz Festival Willisau dieses Rezital gab. Seine Musik ist jung, alt, zeitlos. Sie ist komplex und klar. Ein permanentes Abenteuer, das von den Zuhörenden nichts als Offenheit braucht. Und daraus wird schnell ein fast atemloses Zuhören. «The Willisau Concert» wurde von der Kritik einhellig gefeiert. Jetzt können wir uns zu Hause anhören, was damals so begeistert hat. Das Zürcher Intakt Records hat von Taylor die Rechte erwerben können und die CD herausgegeben. Ein kostbares Stück.
Pirmin Bosshard © Neue
Luzerner Zeitung; 2002-04-06

 

Fast drängt sich ein reisserischer Vergleich auf, wie er im Titel eines Hollywood-B-Moovies stehen könnte: «Ein Mann wie ein Orkan». Immer wieder aus Neue überrascht und überwältigt Cecil Taylor durch die schiere gedankliche und physische Kraft, mit der er seinen musikalischen Kosmos vor uns ausbreitet. Nein, eigentlich zieht er uns nach einigen Tönen schon mitten hinen: Motivfetzen, (Selbst)zitate, Cluster, sprudelnde Läufe, Wildes und Zartes, Sphärenklänge, Wolkenbrüche und Grillengezirpe - all das quillt aus seinen Hönden auf die 97 Tasten des Bösendorfer Imperial. Der 70-jährige Pianist glaubt an die Katharsis in der Musik, und als reinigendes Ritual sollte dieses Konzert vom 3. September 2000 beim Jazzfestival Willisau/Schweiz auch aufgefasst werden. «A celebration of life» hat Taylor einmal seine Musik genannt, und das dürfen wir ruhig wörtlich nehmen. (Wertung: hervorragend)
schu. Concerto, Österreich, April/Mai 2002

 

In solch unübertrefflicher Reife
Cecil Taylor das musikalische wie physische Phänomen. Er strotz vor Enerige als wäre die Zeit stillgestanden. Doch Cecil ist ständig in Bewegung. Das verdeutlicht auch jener Abend in Willisau, an dem Cecil diesen malerischen Ort mit gleissenden Klangfarben und berstendem Vitalismus in ein brodelndes Labyrinth verwandelt. Das Eckige. Das Wuchtige. Das Filigrane. Das Unbändige. Das Widerborstige. Das Spielerische. Das Ausufernde. Das Konzentrierte. Das Stachelige. Das Ausbrechende. Das Zänzerische. Das scheinbar Zügellose. Der rohe, raue und doch zum Weinen schöne Klang. Absolut unverstellt. Direkt. - C.T. was here, er hat allen Widrigkeiten getrotzt. Darum erstrahlt sein Spiel in solch unübertrefflicher Reife.
Hannes Schweizer, Jazzlife, Wien, 134/02



Weatherbird
by Gary Giddins

A Gift From Cecil Taylor

Our Chopin


Some people decry Cecil Taylor as a composer because he rarely revisits pieces and doesn't provide song-form themes for others to play, just as some people decry Thelonious Monk as a composer because he was constantly revisiting pieces and worked almost exclusively with song-form themes that are played to distraction. Consistency is the hobgoblin of jazzcrit. What can be said with certainty is that Taylor, like Monk, has invented his own compositional method and his own approach to the keyboard and that they are indivisible. In the 45 years since he recorded Jazz Advance, he has crafted a unique vocabulary, a thesaurus of leaps, runs, skitters, eruptions, pauses, rhythms, melodies, thrusts, and counter-thrusts. In this, he is nothing unique, merely a member in a very exclusive club of self-invented pianist-composers. You want Chopin melodies, there's only one place to go. Same with Taylor, though melody is probably not what you're seeking from him.

I have no interest in whether Taylor's music will survive the next century as handsomely as Chopin's did the last, but I do suggest that in the realm of uncontained piano ecstasy, he is the modern analogue. Consequently, his every appearance is a gift, especially those rare American forays into concert halls, where the formality virtually guarantees as much attention to solo piano as to whatever unit he is leading. His February 28 performance at Lincoln Center, presented by the World Music Institute and Thomas Buckner, was typical, which is to say stunning. After only a minute or so of offstage guttural yowls and, I think, maracas, he hastened (black skullcap and pants; white, black, and gold blouse; rainbow socks) to the keyboard and began a characteristic buildup with blocked chords—some consonant, others dissonant, but all richly foursquare and spelled by canny rests. "Measurement of sound is its silences," he wrote a long time ago.

Taylor usually begins his extended piano works with poised motifs, building variations stolidly in a kind of foreplay before letting loose the climaxes of pianistic frenzy, the cascades and avalanches that sate the gallery and torment the disaffected. But the compositional authority with which he launches pieces has increased dramatically—from his first great period of piano recitals in the 1970s, through the miniatures and encore-length samplings of the '80s, to recent pieces that are at once mellower and more vigorous, possibly more composed, certainly bespeaking a greater composure. A superb example is Taylor's new CD, The Willisau Concert (Intakt), recorded in September 2000. Three of its five movements are under two minutes, providing easy entry for the wary, but it's the opening episode of the 50-minute first movement that overwhelms with impeccably plotted drama, wit, and command—the narrative skill of a vital composer.

So it was at Lincoln Center, where his sense of proportion and moment equaled his digital precision and amazing energy. The measured chords were followed by two-note tremolos parked in various keys, as though looking for the right room; rhythm figures that pirouetted in the air and landed in splat chords; and his fast-tumbling arpeggios, dispersed so that there was no time to take them for granted. Most remarkable about the first piece was an absence of repetition; one expected, even desired, repeats of the more daredevil conceits, but Taylor, drawing on an apparently bottomless well, insistently moved forward. Only the ending was tenuous; in fact, one couldn't be certain that he wasn't just pausing to peer at the music. As the moment for applause was missed, the recital took on the ipso facto temper of a sonata—only in reverse form, with a sort-of allegro following a sort-of adagio. The more aggressive second piece, or movement, unfolded with cursory melodic fragments, a brief passage that actually swung in a conventional way (he did it again, too, later in the set), a mass of overtones achieved without pedal, and his equivalent of riffs—worked-out figures played twice—before Taylor unleashed an orgasmic, foot-pedaled onslaught, if only for a tantalizing minute or two.

This time, the audience threw caution to the winds and applauded. The third piece, picking up from the second, was teeming and dense, but no less worked out. He used fists and the heels of his hands. One figure required the right heel to bound, quicksilver, over half a dozen clusters; in case anyone thought the passage was entirely serendipitous, he repeated it exactly. Then he began moving big climactic chords from the outer rim to the center, interpolating blues notes and a soupçon of swing, before increasing the tumult and suddenly relinquishing it to stake out a seven-note melody that recalled the theme to The Honeymooners. Overtones were still ringing as he took his bows.

The trio half, with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jackson Krall, was an altogether woollier affair, beginning with an interlude of Taylor declaiming words and affecting poses while Krall played on the floor and every other available surface besides the drums and Duval warmed up with double and triple stops. In these episodes, I assume that the words (most of them inaudible) are of less significance than the exercise of voice and body that Taylor conceives as part of the total process of performing. I've come to accept it, patronizingly, as a playful eccentricity, at least on stage, and sometimes on records: I like his baritone recitations on Chinampas, but can not abide In Florescence. Soon enough, he sat down and grounded the piece in bass chords, before applying both hands to contrapuntal figures that had the openness and clarity of ragtime. Really. And then: the deluge.

Taylor, who turns 73 on Friday (March 15), is ageless, and the image of him immersing himself in a no-holds-barred three-way rocket-launching extravaganza of the sort he has been doing for almost as long as I have been sentient is one of the modern world's tonic wonders. But unit music is another side of Taylor. The variational logic and overall symmetry of his solo piano works have a classicist sensibility. The combination of compositional finesse and beguiling virtuosity is hard to resist. I recall a classical musician in the late '60s comparing Taylor's recitals to Mozart (I still don't get that) and Ravel (sure), but balking after a few minutes of his band. No matter how you slice it or what you call it, a Cecil Taylor unit of any size plays unequivocal avant-garde jazz. That means that the whole concept of structure changes from motific development to group interaction. Whenever I felt my attention bludgeoned into insensibility, as I concede it was, I worked my way back in by focusing less on Taylor's exertions than on how Duval and (especially) Krall were responding to them. The monolithic blitz breaks down into component parts and, soon, such virtues of the solo set as variety and contrast reassert themselves.

But let's face it, details aren't as important in this context; it's partly the experience of being washed in blood that makes a Taylor juggernaut invigorating. He laid out after the climax, allowing bass and drums to bring the piece to ground. The follow-up was a brief, ancillary, and understated example of controlled mutuality. The first of two sweetness-and-light encores began with a minute of solo piano, joined in lockstep by Krall and Duval, who used a stick to stop the strings—quadruple stops. The second was Taylor alone, virtually whispering the notes and finishing with a rumble in the bass. The standing audience continued to cheer, but Taylor—I swear I never thought I would get to write this—knew when enough was enough and disappeared with one final bow.

The encore is always a special moment at a Taylor concert, because its very brevity has the effect of raising the wizard's curtain and letting you glimpse, in relative isolation, a few of his tricks. They have been highlights of his records since Silent Tongues, in 1974, and may have inspired—along with his 1978 triumph at the White House, when he stunned his detractors with a seven-minute performance—the shorter pieces that figure in several of his best solo albums, including Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! in 1980, For Olim in 1986, and the "Stone"/"Old Canal" sequence (five pieces, each under two minutes) on In East Berlin in 1988. Over a dozen years later, The Willisau Concert is on a par with them, and a major statement of Taylor's maturity. You hear nothing of the halting melody of, say, Air Above Mountains (no matter if it does recall "The Very Thought of You"), or the waspish anger of, say, In Florescence. From the first notes, you know you are in the hands of an absolutely confident composer. The piece works its way through short, self-contained units, set off by inhalation-like pauses, but never loses a variational integrity that keeps the work focused, and its routines are less like riffs than the repeats in a sonata. He even tosses in a Jerry Lee Lewis gliss. If you think listening to a piano piece for 50 minutes is daunting, consider the concentration required to keep it moving and coherent. Of course, you can always work your way backward from the encores. In either direction, this is a recital to hear.

 

Cecil Taylor, "The Willisau Concert" (Intakt, www.cadencebulding.com)
Iconoclast Taylor tends toward didactic challenge when playing with others. So some of his most approachable playing comes from solo piano recitals - such as this - where he doesn't concern himself with other musicians. "Willisau," recorded in a Swiss village in September 2000, rates with his best unaccompanied recordings ("For Olim," "The Tree of Life"). It also provides continuing evidence that the ferocious pianist is indeed mellowing a bit in his eighth decade. He's downright playful at moments, and you occasionally can hear his delight in the idea that has just come to him. But the thunderous runs and weird tangents are also here in full glory, fueled by the passion and vision of a man who has had a bolder effect than anyone on jazz piano playing in the past half-century. Grade: A
Martin Wisckol, The Orange County Register, U.S.A, , 2. 8. 02. (http://www.ocregister.com/show/quick00802cci.shtml)

 

Ein Auftritt von beeindruckender Intensität und Stringenz
Man hat ihn einen Schamanen genannt, der Musik als Ritual zelebriert. Cecil Taylor, der amerikanische Freejazz-Pionier, lebt in einer Welt für sich, so eigenwillig ist seine Musik. Seine Live-Auftritte sind improvisatorische Seancen, bei denen zuweilen das Klavier abzuheben scheint. Beim Willisau Jazzfestival vor zwei Jahren hatte er einen guten Tag. Gewissenhaft bereitete er sich auf den Auftritt vor. Schon zwei Tage vor dem Konzert war er vor Ort und nutzte die Zeit, um intensiv zu üben, Kräfte zu sammeln, den Geist zu konzentrieren und sich in Stimmung zu bringen. Dann folge ein Auftritt von beeindruckender Intensität und Stringenz. Aus ein paar hingeworfenen Phrasen spann er ein vielschichtiges und dichtmaschiges Netz aus Tönen, Clustern und Klängen, das immer in neuen Facetten funkelte. Taylor entwickelt eine Idee bis zu einem gewissen Punkt, greift dann - oft recht abrupt - einen neuen Einfall auf, kommt nach einer gewissen Zeit auf seinen früheren Gedanken zurück und beginnt dann beide parallel weiterzuentwickeln, um sie mit der Zeit mehr und mehr miteinander zu verschränken.
Mit forschreitendem Alter ist Cecil Taylor milder geworden. Das heisst nicht, dass seine Totalimprovisationen an Energie eingebüsst hätten, nur dass nun gelegentlich zwischen den eher eruptiven Teilen auch lyrische Momente aufblitzen, kurze Blues- oder Bebop-Phrasen, ein nachklingender Akkord, eine kleine angedeutete Melodie. Damit gwinnt seine Musik manchmal die luftige Qualität zurück, die sie Anfang der 60er Jahre besass, als Taylor sich mit seinem Trio sachte in freies Terrain vortastete. (5)
Christoph Wagner, Zeitschrift für Neue Musik, Deutschland, Juli 02



Il libretto che accompagna il CD ci racconta che l'urgenza espressiva di Cecil Taylor, in quella domenica pomeriggio di inizio settembre al festival svizzero di Willisau, è stata tale da spingerlo a incominciare a suonare prima ancora che fosse terminata la pausa prevista dopo il precedente concerto del quintetto di James Carter. In effetti il Bösendorfer che lo stava attendendo sul palcoscenico possiede una tale profondità di suono da fare scalpitare qualsiasi pianista, figurarsi Cecil Taylor, artista capace di sfruttare a 360° le possibilità dinamiche e timbriche di un simile strumento. Così, mentre il pubblico giaceva ancora in quel limbo tra il bar e la giusta concentrazione per il successivo evento, il pianista ha scolpito i primi stretti cluster nel corpo del pianoforte per poi usare il resto della performance a sviluppare e riprendere ogni possibile estensione di quella materia primigenia, quasi un infante prometeico cui sfuggono da una scatola [dove erano troppo pigiate] biglie di fuoco che rotolano sulla tastiera. La prima parte - che occupa quasi tutto il disco - è così una straordinaria [e a tratti furiosa] esplorazione di quel nucleo sonoro, condotta, secondo dinamiche che ormai sono ben conosciute, alternando velocissime cavalcate a tratti in cui la materia si ricompatta in aggregati densi e iterativi. Ovviamente la parte medio bassa della tastiera viene sfruttata a fondo e dona una tinta scura a tutta l'improvvisazione, fino a che, dopo una mezz'oretta l'iniziale foga si stempera in isole più meditative, quasi spiagge che consentono alle continue onde di note di spezzarsi in modo indolore. Le altre quattro parti - una attorno ai 13 minuti, le altre brevissime - diventano così dei piccoli bozzetti, delle note a margine del discorso, in cui vengono ribadite alcune schegge non quietate di spinta "romantica". Il pubblico applaude, noi con lui.
Valutazione: * * * *
Enrico Bettinello, All About Jazz Italy, 04/02. (http://www.allaboutjazz.com/italy/reviews/r0402_027_it.htm)

 

 

Sturmlauf des Tasten-Derwischs

Willisau steht an, zum 28.Mal: der rechte Moment zur Präsentation einer der grössten Piano-CDs, von Cecil Taylor ebenda aufgenommen vor zwei Jahren. Ein Moment des Glücks.

Jazzfestivals in Europa gibt es viele, zwischen Skandinavien und Palermo, und alle sind eines: ein grosser Reigen, den die immer gleichen amerikanischen Stars, meist im Vorprogramm garniert mit ein paar jeweils lokalen Grössen, ihre european summer tour nennen. Die ist, da man sich über die Wertschätzung des sogenannten Jazz in seinem sogenannten Ursprungsland keine Illusionen machen sollte, längst ein wichtiger wirtschaftlicher Faktor für fast alle in dieser Minderheitenkunst Tätigen. So rasen sie durch den europäischen Sommer und wissen abends kaum, wo sie auftreten, vergleichbar mit jenem überbeschäftigten Bühnenbildner, dem nachgesagt wurde, dass er sich auf den Bauproben erkundigen musste, an welchem Theater er überhaupt sei. Oder jenem textschwachen Schauspieler, der dem verzweifelt mit Stichwörtern um sich schmeissenden Souffleur zuzischte: „Keine Details, das Stück bitte!“.
Ausnahmen von solcher Routine gibt es allerdings auch. Die auffälligste ist das Jazzfestival Willisau, das vom 29. August bis zum, 1. September von Niklaus Troxler tatsächlich zum 28.Mal inszeniert wird. Der ist vom knorrig-spinnigen Grafikgenie im Luzerner Hinterland längst zum ergrauten Stuttgarter Professor mutiert, hat aber, young at heart, die alten Zeiten nie vergessen, das heisst die neue Musik. Willisau ist kein Museum, auch kein Museum der Avantgarde. „Forward to the Roots“, das Motto von einem der diesjährigen Konzerte, ist durchaus das persönliche von Troxler.
Natürlich hat sich auch in Willisau ein Establishment von alljährlich eher aus gesellschaftlichen Gründen anwesenden Habitués herausgebildet; der Anlass, an dem vor Zeiten mit grimmer Miene die konformste Alternative in Gummistiefeln durch die ersten Herbstregen watete, um den von Troxler ebenso grossherzig wie klug programmierten Stan Getz auszupfeifen, steht längst als must im Kalender von Werbern und anderen Wirblern. Nur sind die hier noch immer eine Minderheit, das Programm redet keinem Publikum nach dem Maul, Troxler bringt auf die Bühne, was ihn selbst interessiert, und unabhängig von den Resultaten weht hier ein genius loci, ohne den eine Musik, die für sich spontane Improvisation in Anspruch nimmt, nicht auskommt.
Das Programm von Willisau 2002 vspricht,zumindest auf dem Papier, einen starken Jahrgang. Der Geist weht, wo er will, aber in Willisau verdichtet er sich öfter als anderswo zum Sturm. Das beweist auf geradezu bestürzende Weise eine CD, die hier am ersten September-Sonntagnachmittag des Jahrs 2000 aufgenommen wurde: der „stehende Sturmlauf“ (Kleist) eines Solokonzerts von Cecil Taylor, das, mehr noch als alle davor, in die Geschichte eingehen wird (und Taylor ist ein Musiker, von dem ich keinen schlechten Auftritt kenne: unerträgliche vielleicht, weil in ihrer zerrissenen Intensität jeden Zuhörer überfordernd, aber nie fakultativ).
Der Pianist, als Tastenderwisch und Improvisationsmagier längst weit über den Jazz hinaus als Meister gefeiert (u.a. vom Kollegen Glenn Gould), ist der Musterfall dafür, dass auch die scheinbare Hier-und-jetzt-Improvisation von Voraussetzungen und Vorbereitungen ausgeht. Auch die Tage vor dieser nachmittäglichen Willisauer Sternstunde verbrachte Taylor stundenlang am Flügel, nicht um zu üben, sondern um sich ein Klima der Inspiration zu erarbeiten; am Konzerttag selbst verbrachte er ab acht Uhr früh nicht weniger als drei Stunden am grossen Bösendorfer - „Soundcheck“ wird das niemand nennen wollen.
Cecil Taylor ist im Alter, eine fernöstliche Souveränität ausstrahlend, noch vielfarbiger geworden, kleinteiliger, raffinierter in den Brüchen zwischen lyrischer Verinnerlichung und wirbelnder Selbstentäusserung in Paralleläufen, Clusterkaskaden, donnernden Tiefenprekussionen. Mehr als auch schon scheint in seinem Spiel der Subtext der von ihm bewunderten Ahnen Monk und Ellington durch, schiessen Zitate aus der komponierten Klavierliteratur ein, ironische Anspielungen an den Aufgalopp letzter Sonatensätze von Beethoven etwa oder stille Wasserreflexe aus Debussys Klanglandschaften, alles nicht besserwisserisch vorgeführt als Bildungsgut, sondern tänzerisch, dramaturgisch, gestisch: ein Teil seiner selbst.
Wie glücklich sich Taylor an diesem Willisauer Sonntag gefühlt hat, in dieser Stunde des Kairos, des erfüllten Augenblicks, zeigt, dass er sich an den wundervollen Bösendorfer stürzte, als das Publikum nach der Pause erst in den Saal zu strömen begann, und dass er sich vom Flügel und den Zuhörern (beide sind seine Resonanzräume) kaum trennen mochte, nach einer Dreingabe von fast einer Viertelstunde kam er zurück für ein kurzes Capriccio, und nach diesem für noch eins, und endlich für ein letztes. Kunst, die zu beschreiben eine noch nicht erfundene Sprache erforderte. Oder eine ganz einfache. Etwa den berühmten Satz von Wladimir Horowitz: „I play the pianoforte. That means, I play piano and I play forte. That’s all.“
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche Nr. 35, 02

 

Un consiglio: prima di ascoltare questo CD, preparatevi. Che so: qualche esercizio rilassante, magari un po' di iperventilazione, come se doveste affrontare un'apnea prolungata. Poi, tuffatevi. Ecco, questo è il punto: che lo vogliate o no, Cecil Taylor vi sommerge, come un liquido inarrestabile che preme contro il vostro corpo da ogni lato, vi lascia senza fiato, annichilisce ogni sensazione "ragionevole". Siete cosa sua: vi sbatacchia l'anima come si fa con un polpo sugli scogli. Poi, quando siete belli che ammorbiditi, vi cucina a fuoco lento… Molti non resistono, naturalmente. E infatti tutt'ora, dopo mezzo secolo di musica ineguagliabile, spesso sublime, sempre personalissima, c'è ancora chi ne mette in discussione la grandezza. Che in questa incisione di solo pianoforte, "catturata" dalla radio svizzera DRS nel settembre 2000, durante il Jazzfestival Willisau, emerge a tutto tondo. Cecil ha a disposizione un meraviglioso Bösendorfer Imperial, e ci "danza" sopra da par suo: delicatissimo e furente, lirico ed esplosivo, fluido e scattante. Per fortuna l'opera di Taylor è in questi ultimi tempi adeguatamente documentata, i CD pubblicati ogni anno sono parecchi, e la qualità è sempre almeno buona. Ma questo, datemi retta, non perdetevelo!

10/10 qualità musicale
Commento tecnico Pianoforte molto concreto e solido, esplicitamente live, registrato attraverso un'esatta collocazione dei microfoni che lo situano con esattezza nello spazio e individuano molto bene la tastiera. Meriterebbe il massimo dei voti se non fosse un po' penalizzata la trasparenza, e la banda passante non proprio estesisissima. Voto 7,5
Maurizio Favot , http://www.suono.it / 2002

 

Der unbestrittene Höhepunkt des jazz-Festivals Willisau 2000 war das Solo-Konzert von Klavier-Titan Cecil Taylor. Dass nun der Live-Mitschnitt veröffentlicht wird, ist dem kleinen, aber feinen Schweizer Label Intakt zu verdanken. Aufgeheizt und aufgeladen durch den Höreindruck des vorangegangenen Auftritts von James Carter, erreichte Taylor aus dem Stand Tempo und Dynamik ohne sein gewohntes Ritual an Rasta. Tanz und Rezitation steuerte Taylor direkt auf nie nachlassende Höhepunkte zu. Meinrad Buholzer beschreibt im Booklet Taylors Welt treffend. Sie ist gespickt « mit Akkorden, Cluster, Kaskaden, mit Phrasen, Fragmenten, Fetzen, mit Ansätzen, Andeutungen, Anspielungen, mit Aufspaltungen, Verzweigungen, Zitaten; mit Melodiösem und Abstraktem. Mal hingeworfen, mal geradezu behutsam moduliert. Mal blitzschnell, dann wieder langsam, gemächlich. Mal laut und brachial, mal leise und sensitiv. Auch mit rhythmischen Wechseln, die aber alle einem höheren Rhythmus unterworfen sind. Wie auch der divergierende, ausfransende Kosmos letztlich ein ganze bildet, kompakt, in sich schlüssig, aber nicht verschlossen, sondern offen - hin zur weiteren Entfaltung». Der Pianist und Pionier des modernen jazz - zum Zeitpunkt des Mitschnitt bereits über siebzig - reiht Lauf an Lauf, wechselt dann abrupt die Tempi, stürzt sich in wilde Cluster, türmt sie zu komplexen Klanggebilden auf und steigert sie schliesslich in höchster Intensität, um sie alsbald wieder zu zerbröseln, zerplätschern zu lassen. Taylors Konzerte sind noch nach Jahrzehnten besondere Erlebnisse. Sie sind mit tiefem Sinn für Dramaturgie ausgestattet, was jegliche Kraftmeierei ausschliesst, die Taylor immer wieder angedichtet wird. Mehrere (!) Zugaben, keine einzige zwei Minuten lang, entliessen ein beglŁcktes Publikum in den Willisauer Regen.
Reiner Kobe, Jazzpodium, 2002

 

 

Anyone with an interest in modern Jazz, and particularly free improvisation, must be acquainted, at least to some degree, with the seminal accomplishement of Cecil Talyor. His work, primarly as a soloist, over a period of decades, constitutes one of the most dingular bodies of muscial creativity in any genre of the arts. Thast he continues to produce such remarkable consturcts into his seventh decade of life is by itself a monumental achievement. That his level of energy continues unabated with new ideas flowing unabashedly is inspiring. Ken Burns notwithstanding, Cecil Taylor is every bit as critical a figure in the world of creative improvisation as Louis Armstrong. That said, The Willisau Concert is one of Taylor's masterpieces, ranking with the bes of his accomplishments. To the extent that some of his more recent recordings reflect a slightly more subdued side of his playing, this is a return to form with the sustained full gusto of his most energetic works, such as Indent. He begins with a phrase, and like an architect evolving an idea, he builds slowly, then quickly to conclusions that only seem logical in retrospect. «Part 1» is the critical section, taking up fifty minutes without lapsing to cliché. The piece is thrilling, the sound well recorded, the intensity at times almoust unbearable. Genius is not too strong a term, and anyone with an interest in Taylor will wish to add this recording to his (or her) collection. The thirteen minute «Part 2» is no less substantial, though much shorter. It, too, unfolds with precision, somewhat more introspectively, to be sure, but no less powerfully. Parts 3, 4, 5 are vignettes, the dessert, or icing on the cake – each a forceful statement following a different line. For those who have never heard Cecil Taylor, this is a wonderful introduction to his unique method of expression. To those familiar with his performances, The Willisau Concert is a solid and indispensable part of his discography and belongs in any serious record collection.
Steven Loewy, Cadence. USA, August 2002

 

Cecil Taylor, who recently celebrated his 73rd birthday, continues to show the chops and invention that have inspired a bustling genre of music for more than forty years. The Willisau Concert is another fascinating entry into a discography with an already healthy share of solo performances. Both the abrasion and the delicate nuances of Taylor's playing were stunningly captured at the 2000 Willisau Festival. At his age, and with four decades of near-continuous performing and recording, it is easy to wonder what new territory he could possibly enter. I suppose that a platter of hard bop covers would qualify as new territory. But since repetition is precisely what Cecil Taylor has stood against since forming his famed partnership with Jimmy Lyons in 1962, atonal stream-of-conscious theses glued together by subtle melodic departures can safely be expected. Attempts to translate his internal language, or decoding it, are futile. If not the searing waves of dissonance that brew intrigue and cause for scrutiny, it is arguably the mystique that underlies Taylor's music that so compels his listeners, and thus transforms our personal worlds in a way no other art form can. Only virtual technology can better fool our senses into such a blissful freefall. Yet Taylor is more consistently imaginative. The glacial heads that frame the fifty-minute "Part 1" recur both in torrents and ripples. Aggressive rumbles surge in perfect clarity here, in possibly the best-recorded document of Taylor using the extended bass register of the 97-key Bösendorfer Imperial. The track easily ranks among such gems as those from Silent Tongues and Indent for its energy and stimulating flow of ideas. At thirteen minutes, "Part 2," a well-developed expanse of brawn and space, is succinct in comparison to its weighty predecessor. The following three tracks are a series of Taylor-patented encores, concisely punctuated with resolve and humor. Not to be overlooked, The Willisau Concert is the long overdue union of Cecil Taylor's music with the precision-driven aesthetic of Switzerland's Intakt label.
Alan Jones, One Final Note, 2002. USA. (www.onefinalnote.com)

 

Un consiglio: prima di ascoltare questo CD, preparatevi. Che so: qualche esercizio rilassante, magari un po' di iperventilazione, come se doveste affrontare un'apnea prolungata. Poi, tuffatevi. Ecco, questo è il punto: che lo vogliate o no, Cecil Taylor vi sommerge, come un liquido inarrestabile che preme contro il vostro corpo da ogni lato, vi lascia senza fiato, annichilisce ogni sensazione "ragionevole". Siete cosa sua: vi sbatacchia l'anima come si fa con un polpo sugli scogli. Poi, quando siete belli che ammorbiditi, vi cucina a fuoco lento… Molti non resistono, naturalmente. E infatti tutt'ora, dopo mezzo secolo di musica ineguagliabile, spesso sublime, sempre personalissima, c'è ancora chi ne mette in discussione la grandezza. Che in questa incisione di solo pianoforte, "catturata" dalla radio svizzera DRS nel settembre 2000, durante il Jazzfestival Willisau, emerge a tutto tondo. Cecil ha a disposizione un meraviglioso Bösendorfer Imperial, e ci "danza" sopra da par suo: delicatissimo e furente, lirico ed esplosivo, fluido e scattante. Per fortuna l'opera di Taylor è in questi ultimi tempi adeguatamente documentata, i CD pubblicati ogni anno sono parecchi, e la qualità è sempre almeno buona. Ma questo, datemi retta, non perdetevelo!

10/10 qualità musicale

Commento tecnico Pianoforte molto concreto e solido, esplicitamente live, registrato attraverso un'esatta collocazione dei microfoni che lo situano con esattezza nello spazio e individuano molto bene la tastiera. Meriterebbe il massimo dei voti se non fosse un po' penalizzata la trasparenza, e la banda passante non proprio estesisissima. Voto 7,5

Maurizio Favot, Suono, Italien, 2002

 

 

Jürg Solothurnman, Jazz'n'More, September 2014

 

 

Christoph Merki, Tages-Anzeiger, Zürich, 7. April 2018

 

Frank von Niederhäusern, Kulturtipp, November, 2018

 

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