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

FMP CD 126

Volker Spicker


I have rarely been present at the kind of concert that remained in my memory because it provided such an enormous, maybe even entirely new musical experience. The concerts of the Cecil Taylor Ensemble at the 29. Total Music Meeting of Free Music Production in November 1996 at the Podewil in Berlin were such unique opportunities for this kind of deep musical experience. Even if you consider Free Jazz or free improvised music among your familiar musical areas, the energy here flows so direct, so complex and transparent, so electrifying and overpowering that one can easily imagine when listening to this recording how unforgettable these concerts were if you were lucky enough to be there. Cecil Taylor concerts, solo as well as in the most diverse ensemble constellations, have been high-lights of the music world for decades. The FMP recordings and the numerous Taylor concerts on their festivals in Berlin have demonstrated this for a long time and are an impressive documentation of the development of this exceptional artist. Once co-creator of Free Jazz, Taylor re-invented piano playing and became the role model for a whole generation of free-thinking piano players. Already since the seventies his performances have become more and more of a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, its dramaturgy including dance, gestures, vocalizing and texts. The set on November 2 documented on these recordings, however, is almost entirely musically structured, the emphasis is definitely on the sounds of the instruments, the voices and the structure. Whereas before the ensemble staged an ‘opera-tic’ event, with theatrical gestures and ballet-like movements, this is absolutely about music.

The diversity of musical relationships within the ensemble, the profusion of changes and the form of the entity create a process which is as manifold as life and nature itself. If you allow yourself to open up, the music raises the sensitivity, the attention for every process, for life in general in oneself. As in trance, the preconceived patterns of perception which normally put the world in a kind of schema, fade away in the same way as with traditional music. The aesthetically so perfect and, at the same time, free music liberates the senses (as the saying goes) and the people, the musicians as well as the audience. The spontaneity of the process, the improvisation of the communication itself allows new things to emerge, leads to unexpected constellations and changes, just like in real life. Once in motion, the Taylor ensemble does not let go anymore, it directs and leads itself and us into dimensions which are so multi-coloured, so free and pure that it seems transcendental in comparison to the perception of reality in the way it presents itself otherwise, without the guidance of a master like Taylor. It is not suprising that he is also worshipped as shaman, as master of transcendence.

For more than an hour without let-up, the ensemble keeps showing new ways of perception of time, form, structure and communication. What seems chaotic to an inexperienced listener develops into a cosmos of intense clarity and power. In this concert especially, because it is here that the Taylor ensemble gives the process a clearly defined form constituting the framework for the improvisation without limiting its freedom. In the last part of the evening the collective finally comes upon a complex idea, developed together. A final process is reached which doesn’t seem to want to end, a permanent high-altitude flight instead of one culminating point which, constantly re-shaped, repeats itself or does not, changes but only to some extent, constantly interlocking in a new kind of way, not changing fundamentally anymore, but remains so dense that the energy intensifies again and again, engulfing us entirely, leaving us swaying as in ecstasy, again and again overwhelmed by the profusion of music, the intensity of its aesthetic power.

The Cecil Taylor ensemble does not offer what ‘normal’ music offers. It does not manifest the well-known but creates new and movingly authentic processes which speak about freedom and about how dense, complex and rich life is.

Such unique concerts have the power of changing the listener. Assuming that you admit there to be ways of seeing the world other than the traditional and conservative, the ‘ordinary’ allows. The music of the Cecil Taylor ensemble is an alternative. A still modern, innnovative and exciting way to expand the consciousness through music, to feel that one lives and that one can be free. It was unforgettable. Now you can experience it again.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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