FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 1989-2004

FMP CD 120

Volker Spicker


When music moves so intensely that your own orientation, tossed about, seems to dissolve yielding in favour of the one on offer, in the face of the overabundance of truthfulness and diversity, of the energy and the communication, you experience a process which has the potential of transforming yourself. The Cecil Taylor Ensemble concert during the 29. Total Music Meeting of the Free Music Production at the Podewil in Berlin was one of those rare highlights; with this recording it can be experienced once again.

Cecil Taylor is the most important Free Jazz piano player of all time, creator of a completely new way of playing the piano and of improvising. He has influenced generations of Jazz musicians all over the world, his solo and ensemble improvisations are long since written into the annals of music history. For many years Taylor has had a long-standing friendship with the Free Music Production in Berlin. FMP productions have contributed to and established his worldwide reputation. He has been a constant visitor to Berlin and has played in a variety of constellations on the “Total Music Meeting”. In 1996, he was there, once again.

On that November evening the Cecil Taylor Ensemble slipped onto the stage, slowly taking shape, softly vocalising, dancing and gesticulating and disappearing again in a similar manner at the end. Just like in an opera, because the characters on stage were not only interpreters, not only musicians but individuals of a collective presenting themselves as complete human beings. Taylor, who has already for quite a while been developing in his performances from only playing the piano to pianist/poet, mime-artist, dancer and shaman, leading as the creative center also guided his ensemble to this point. Overture, Intermezzo and epilogue thus became all-embracing phases of attack and decay reaching their destination like in a meditation. Sensitively the ensemble acquired possession of the space and the audience, sharpening the consciousness with tiny impulses directing the attention in many different directions, demonstrating rapport through their communicative energy and presenting the ensemble as a musical and social collective. A warm invitation to join in and to travel to new dimensions.

What followed was the complete process. Totally absorbing, totally transparent, totally complex, totally free. It was as complete as music, as processes, as life can be or could be or always is. Once released you found yourself in such an intense, complex and conclusive communication that entirely filled your consciousness. Not only for once, not only for one instant or one climax but permanently, throughout the entire process. Captivated by these complex impressions we experienced a dramatic journey through ourselves, learned what our own life can be like or could be like or always is, because at this point a feeling of overwhelming distended, the music fulfilled us completely. The Cecil Taylor Ensemble took over at the wheel and fed us with sheer infinite variable energy. It freed us. The presence of the ensemble was moving. A rapture, ecstasy, unique in the world of music. This concert reorganised your own consciousness, took you to spheres previously unknown, took unexpected turns, concentrating on the essential things, on the living, showed the meaning of being free and creative, of being alive. The music simply mirrored the infinite processes taking place within each of us and around us at the same time, processes which equal life, inspiring sensitivity and attentiveness.

The precondition is being prepared to let go of expectations, the well-known, to let yourself go. As impressive as the experience of a Cecil Taylor Ensemble concert can be, as shaking it can be for an audience catapulted unprepared for the first time into such new dimensions. Even the newspaper ‘Die Zeit’ in a review of this concert found that this went to the “limits of what is bearable in music”. Maybe these are the limits of what is bearable because it demonstrated uncompromisingly how free man can be and is allowed to be and how fruitful freedom is for all of us. How inspiring and joyful playing together is, how full of energy and how peaceful, how intense change is, how breathtaking and different from what one thinks. How relationships are interwoven, how little is needed as framework or form for united creative activity. An alternative as impressive as this is hard to take for a conformist society which functions completely differently, where the expectations are limited to what is known. But what is “bearable in music” does not have its limits here but more in the area where compromise, commerce, easy listening and conformity rule, in the popular area and in the conservative area which no longer offer any serious alternatives but remain within the framework of what has brought them about.

The Cecil Taylor Ensemble does not offer this kind of foothold. Instead, it offers the electrifying flood of infinite life-energy. The authentic truth of great music. Without any doubt still as revolutionary as modern, living music history experiencing its worthy perpetuation with this recording. Within Cecil Taylor’s work it will further the sensitization for uniquely intense musical experiences of this kind. It was an incredibly moving process. I was different when I was there.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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