Orthodoxy is a strange phenomenon that permeates many aspects of human society, not the least of which is the musical realm. In jazz, it can be a deadly force, keeping creativity and experimentation at bay and forcing a uniformity of taste. Orthodoxy can be attributed to a number of factors, namely music producers, label owners, market distributing arms and media. Sometimes orthodoxy can be a positive thing, resulting from the inspired gargantuan achievements of master musicians like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and John Coltrane who set standards those who follow in their wake are keen to adhere to. The problem with any orthodoxy, however, is that is can exclude a whole lot of great music from the attention of an ignorant public who would otherwise appreciate it.
Cecil Taylor is a case in point. One doesn't have to delve very far into his discography to understand the power and importance of his oeuvre, nor to lament the prejudice and misunderstanding that greeted it and kept his work in the margins of public taste. Yet, listening to this CD reissue of these early recordings ("Into the Hot" from 1961 and "Unit Structures" from 1966) one can't help but feel that a great critical blunder was then made by people who should have known better and that Taylor's music, with its fresh formal aspects and its creative drive, is actually squarely in the lineage of the great jazz artists who have shaped the jazz language.
The impressive structural features of the pieces, as well as the talents skillfully unified in these large ensembles (a septet in each of the re-releases) is in keeping with the creative and expressive playing of the jazz forefathers and major stylists in the more orthodox vein. Why Taylor is not better known and more widely appreciated is a mystery explainable by the aforementioned lack of open-mindedness on the part of jazz musicians, producers and audiences alike who want more of the same and who cannot accept something new until they can see the connection between the old and the newly forged in the music. On this reissue, that means seven pieces by Taylor ("Pots," "Bulbs," "Mixed," "Steps," "Enter Evening," "Unit Structure," "Tales [8 Whisps])" that serve as fecund vehicles for the kind of playing that people like Taylor and his cohorts on this album (Ted Curson, Roswell Rudd, Henry Grimes, Alan Silva, Sunny Murray, et. al.) and many others of his generation and since have been working at, and to which this re-release speaks very boldly!
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