Comprised of three extended pieces, the two on the original LP -- "Conquistador" (17:51) and "With Exit" (19:17) - and an alternate take on "With Exit" (17:21), this 1966 recording stands as a classic, both in the Cecil Taylor repertoire and in the free jazz movement. Nat Hentoff writes in the original liner notes that Taylor continued to grow musically and intellectually and was "Acutely aware and responsive to a wide range of the textures of this time - in dance, in poetry, in theatre, in politics." Unquestionably one of the vanguard jazz musicians of the 1960s, he remains such in 2004. In 1966, however, there were few others who shared his vision of taking music beyond standard constriction and fewer still who understood the distillation. An alum of the New England Conservatory of Music, he first took this unique foray into music a decade earlier, with Jazz Advance
, released on Blue Note in 1956. Though he was largely disdained in the jazz community and wholly misunderstood (or not understood at all) among the jazz cognoscenti, he was lionized by those who sought to take the ride with him. Shades of Taylor are evident, for instance, in AACM and Art Ensemble of Chicago releases that would follow.
Aided and abetted in this endeavor by trumpeter Bill Dixon, alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, Andrew Cyrille on drums and the dual bassists Henry Grimes and Alan Silva, the music is unrestrained and free in the most absolute and abstract senses. Taylor’s approach is more attack than nuance, though the nuance is there and merely takes a serious listen to discern. He slides off the keys, bangs them relentlessly and glides over the tips barely making contact, often within just a few bars. Cyrille and Lyons, most especially, cajole and inspire, working off the maestro brilliantly throughout. Certainly all on hand are capable players, to state it lightly. One does not perform with a genius unless one holds shards of this beauty and intense tenderness within oneself. These are all exceptional players. The genius sits at the piano. Those with an interest in boundary-defying music - music that may or may not fit their definition of jazz - will find the essence of courageous and brilliant musical exploration here.