Todd Masuda: Cecil Taylor, Oil on Wood

There’s been a lot written on Cecil Taylor this past week since his death, and as Taylor was an essential part of my coming of age as a serious musician and, especially, a serious listener and lover of music, it’s been exciting to see how far he reached audiences outside of jazz and the even smaller world of predominantly improvised music.

I saw him play live about a dozen times, and all of them are memorable. Two in particular stand out: in 1989 I and a friend (the guy who made the painting above) went to Town Hall to see the 10 year anniversary/reunion of Taylor and Max Roach’s famous Miller Theatre concert. I remember that they poked and prodded at each other for a few minutes, and then they were in sync and carving out a new dimension. Todd and I at one point found ourselves ducked down behind the seats in front of us, slightly overwhelmed by the torrent of ideas and seeking some kind of protection. A year or so later, Taylor was booked for a a few days (of all things) at Condon’s on East 14th Street (of all places). He was there with his Feel Trio of Tony Oxley and William Parker, my personal favorite of all his groups—they didn’t just play together they all led together. Now, I respond in a powerful physical way to CT’s playing, gyrating and shaking and bouncing in time with the pulse, something that is instinctual. But there was a table in front of me with two young Japanese guys, and one was responding with grand-mal type violence. At one point, he knocked over the whole table by accident, this from a seated position. No one blinked an eye.

For my critical two cents, if you’re interested, read my response to his 2012 debut(!!!!) in Brooklyn. IMO it’s a good description of how his thinking and playing worked, and what it was like to live, briefly, in his world.

“Anyone who can write with insight and authority about Alas No Axis, Sonic Youth, Elvis Costello…Missy Mazzoli and William Britelle, and…Mahler…is okay in my book.”

Darcy James Argue

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

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Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.