Saturday, January 16, 2016

THE CECIL TAYLOR QUARTET – Looking Ahead! (LP-1959)




Label: Contemporary Records – S7562
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo / Country: US / Released: 1959
Style: Contemporary Jazz, Free Jazz
Recorded on 9 June 1958 at Nola's Penthouse Studios, NYC.
Supervission, Liner notes – Nat Hentoff
Engineers – Tommy Nola / Lewis Merritt

A1 - Luyah! The Glorious Step ........................................................... 6:25
A2 - African Violets ............................................................................ 5:12
        (written-by – Griffith, Taylor)
A3 - Of What ....................................................................................... 8:18
B1 - Wallering ..................................................................................... 5:22
B2 - Toll .............................................................................................. 7:38
B3 - Excursion on a Wobbly Rail ........................................................ 9:04

All compositions by Cecil Tayor except as indicated

CECIL TAYLOR – piano
EARL GRIFFITH – vibes
BUELL NEIDLINGER – bass
DENIS CHARLES – drums, percussion

„Looking Ahead!“ is an album by pianist Cecil Taylor recorded for the Contemporary label in June 1958. The album features performances by Taylor with Buell Neidlinger, Denis Charles and Earl Griffith.
Thus, LOOKING AHEAD is a superb showcase, standing alone in the Taylor canon. Produced by acclaimed writer Nat Hentoff (whose exceptional liner notes remind us that critical analysis can be insightful and provocative in responsible hands), the pianist's only album for Contemporary Records more than makes the label live up to its name!


One of Cecil Taylor's earliest recordings, Looking Ahead! does just that while still keeping several toes in the tradition. It's an amazing document of a talent fairly straining at the reins, a meteor about to burst onto the jazz scene and render it forever changed. With Earl Griffith on vibes, Taylor uses an instrumentation he would return to occasionally much later on, one that lends an extra percussive layer to the session, emphasizing the new rhythmic attacks he was experimenting with. Griffith sounds as though he might have been a conceptual step or two behind the other three but, in the context of the time, this may have served to make the music a shade more palatable to contemporary tastes. But the seeds are clearly planted and one can hear direct hints of Taylor's music to come, all the way to 1962 at least (the Nefertiti trio with Sunny Murray). Pieces like "Luyah! The Glorious Step" and "Of What" are so fragmented (in a traditional sense) and so bristlingly alive that one can understand Whitney Baillett's observation of crowds at a Taylor concert fidgeting "as if the ground beneath had suddenly become unbearably hot." The contributions of bassist Buell Neidlinger and drummer Dennis Charles cannot be understated; they breathe with Taylor as one unit and appear to be utterly in sync with his ideas. When the pianist edges into his solo on "Excursion on a Wobbly Rail," it's as though he's meeting the tradition head on, shaking hands and then rocketing off into the future. Looking Ahead! is a vital recording from the nascence of one of the towering geniuses of modern music and belongs in any jazz fan's collection.




In my assessment the best example of Cecil Taylor's early material, "Looking Ahead!" finds Cecil Taylor in transition-- his rhythm section (bassist Buell Neidlinger and drummer Dennis Charles) has developed a more sympathetic ear to what he was trying to accomplish (at this point, something very different from where he'd end up) and vibraharpist Earl Griffith puts forth a fine counterpoint to Taylor's piano.

Musically, this is a unique record in Taylor's catalog, and it sits somewhere closer to the innovations of Ornette Coleman than to his later works-- the rhythm section is in an adventerous bop vein-- both occasionally leave behind their foundations for a more abstract approach, but largely maintenance of swing is essential. Taylor and Griffith are largely focused on intertwining lines-- Taylor in fact plays more single-note runs than I've heard anywhere else in his catalog to foil Griffith well. Earl Griffith is a bit of the ace in the hole for Taylor-- I have no idea where this guy went, but his playing shows an unusual sensitivity for his instrument and a fine understanding of Taylor's music. There is a space, an openness, an arythmic and polytonal approach that allows room for the musicians to work-- check Taylor's solo and the traded figures with Charles on "Excursions on a Wobbly Rail", the album's standout, to get a good feel for this. Taylor's future is laid out, but its definitely a growth rather than the full-on assault his later work would be. Also pointing closer to the future is "Of What", the densest song where, like in Taylor's later work, the quartet seems to operate as one instrument, interwining and voices rising and falling between each other.

The remainder of the pieces are a bit more open, with emphasis on intersecting single-note lines between Taylor and Griffith ("Luyah! The Glorious Step"), a lyrical ballad (composed by Griffith-- "African Violets") that shows a side of Taylor we rarely see and a piece that emphasizes space and openness in opposition to the usual Taylor density ("Wallering").

Taylor would reach greater heights as his idiom came together and his musicians were more sympathetic, but this record is a superb example of his finding his way.    _   Recommended.


Note:
Special treatment of sound processing in the Studio-A of Radio Corona.



If you find it, buy this album!

9 comments:

  1. THE CECIL TAYLOR QUARTET – Looking Ahead! (LP-1959)
    Vinyl Rip/FLAC+Cover

    Mediafire:
    http://www.mediafire.com/download/f7sjer59nwa2224

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  2. Vitko, thanks for the digital copy of this. Have the vinyl. Great review. This is truly an early classic in Taylor's vast discography. Recently have been delving into the Live In Berlin 88 box set and all of the late 70's Unit albums. Cheers brother!

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  3. Thank You Vitko .... I was wondering do you have Max Roach & Archie Shepp Force ? Maybe you could put it up ?

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  4. I have that record, but it has set on Inconstant Sol blog 2009. It would be best to contact them for a new link.
    Cheers.

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  5. He's doing a bunch of dates at the Whitney Museum in New York in April -

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  6. Thanks Vitko I have this LP, a great start to his career

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