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

FMP CD 123

Bert Noglik


Percussion sounds as if from far away. Sound poetry. Cello accents, strange guitar sounds. A Cecil Taylor performance. He approaches the piano with springy steps. The ritual starts. It seems to develop a dynamic of its own from the force fields of the four musicians, linked to individuals and, at the same time, going beyond them. A continuum of cultural experience is translated into sounds and collective music is put back into the flow of improvisation.

Already the line-up “composes” this music. On several occasions, Cecil Taylor has described Andrew Cyrille as a formative power in the spontaneous creation of the sounds. In the collaboration with Andrew Cyrille, Taylor conjures up a part of his own biography, without wanting to repeat it. From 1964 onwards, Cyrille was a member of the Taylor Unit, for eleven years. Recordings like “Unit Structures” from 1966 documented musical milestones. At the beginning, in order to indicate the direction, Cecil Taylor pointed out the relationship of music and ballet to his new drummer who, at that time, replaced Sunny Murray. A way of playing the piano which resembles the leaps of a dancer. A way of playing the drums which resembles movement in space. A new kind of weightlessness, new freedom. “I think”, Taylor later said about this phase with Cyrille, “ that he saw the light when I explained to him that rhythm, from my point of view, has a lot to do with dance.” And, of course, with breathing, with speaking, with singing. Breaking with conventional swing, yet no renunciation, but intensification of both the physically communicated and experienced force of movement.

Rythmical sound cross references: the piano as percussion instrument and the percussion as melody instrument. Corresponding ways of playing they both have been working on for more than a quarter century, even when they were not on stage together. Unit structures, the congruence of structure and process, more than a theme for a recording. A design for living. And something else binds them together, deeply, Cecil Taylor and Andrew Cyrille: the knowledge about the roots of this music in African culture. Cyrille has the theory that the drums – from an historical standpoint – “sprang from the wish to play the poly rhythms and tonalities resembling African drum choirs”. Taking all that into consideration it becomes clear that with Andrew Cyrille appearing on the scene in this connection – this was in 1999 – we can speak of a “special guest”. Yet, at the same time, Andrew Cyrille remains what he has always been: an integral and integrating part of the ensemble playing presenting itself in constantly changing perspectives.

Even though the most varying of dialogue constellations emerge they remain embedded in a collective context. The actual ‘joker’ in this quartet proves to be Franky Douglas who comes from Curaçao and whose home has become Amsterdam – in the broad spectrum of Surinam-Fusion bands through to free improvised music. In this ensemble the guitar player brings in sounds reminiscent of strongly alienated blues-riffs, growling sounds or bass distortions which always remain compatible with the sound aesthetic of the quartet. Cecil Taylor knows Franky Douglas from Amsterdam, from the October meetings in the Bimhuis. In the months prior to the Total Music Meeting ’99 he frequently played with Tristan Honsinger – in a trio with Evan Parker and in a quartet with Harri Sjöström, Teppo Hauta-aho and Paul Lovens. In this context, Tristan Honsinger works particularly focussed on rhythm and interaction, integrating a musical equivocality through his arco attacks which one may associate with European ‘Kunstmusik’ while, at the same time, one should not forget in this context that string instruments are also familiar in African cultures. Just as with the others, also for Tristan Honsinger – and maybe particularly for him, it is about physical visualization, theatralization of the music. Not as artificial gesture but in the sense of the necessity to present yourself as actually playing the music.

Four musicians in search of a common pathway through time. The end is still open when they come on stage, when the first sounds are carefully placed into the space. Cecil Taylor’s highly individual lyrics resemble incantations and are a reminder to the poetic dimension of this music. What we experience and re-experience with the recordings is similar to the formation of waves. As always in groups around Taylor, musical movements develop in broad curves, logical in themselves, cohesion and dissolution. And, as always in Taylor’s music since the eighties and even more in the nineties, views of unexpected tenderness open up. On the other hand we experience cohesion of a sheer unbearable intensity. Unbearable for consumer-oriented ears, for senses which are only used to react instead of perceiving and of being involved in a creative way. With this emphasis of the aura, with its intensity in the here and now, this music opposes the increasing virtualization, the disembodiment of this world. And, at the same time, it itself can be seen as rejection of the shallow materialism of the world of goods by igniting something indescribable between the poly rythmic interlocking, the whirring sounds, the thundering clusters and the hovering micro tonalities: magic.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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