Sadly I never ever got to hear Cecil Taylor play live. I did however hear Tomasz Stańko quite a few times over the years whose aesthetic was similar to the great pianist's. Closest I got one step removed was one time going round to Stańko's Rozbrat Street flat near the Vistula in central Warsaw when Stańko interrupted playing his trumpet miked up to a Cecil Taylor record Erzulie Maketh Scent to make tea and chat. That was the closest I got. Some years earlier than that encounter (which was in the early 1990s) back in 1984 Taylor visited Poland to perform years after an earlier visit behind the Iron Curtain in the 60s when he played solo.
That chronology is according to notes that accompany the newly mastered Music From Two Continents which is out in 10 days' time on the reliably alert Fundacja Słuchaj (''Słuchaj'' being Polish for ''listen'', ''Fundacja'', ''foundation'') label. Not just Stańko but Italian free-jazz matador and soul brother to Stańko Enrico Rava is on this record as is Taylor stalwart altoist Jimmy Lyons with his wife bassoonist Karen and in the personnel too the cult reedist John Tchicai on tenor who is the subject of a 2021-published book (which you can read more about in the pages of the blue moment) and last but not least none other than William Parker on bass (this year on the excellent Some Good News) among the headliners in the personnel.
Listening to the opening 12 minutes makes me very lit up inside for the first time in a long while through its anarchy, fizzing energy and truth revolution remarkable given how we are so buttoned up these days and repressed by the puritanism of the 2020s. Even though we usually think of Ornette and Paul Bley as being the instigators of free jazz it was just as much Cecil Taylor in the vanguard only that Taylor's music is so much more difficult to absorb in its fecundity and wild spirit and which even got more baroque in its intensity as the years went on melding his bulldozing harmonic blitzkrieg of ideas and darting raids on the imagination with poetry readings and more (not my favourite aspect of his work) that obscures his contribution to many. There are three tracks on the release in the Bandcamp version, the second and third each clocking in at 25 minutes plus. Get it on CD and you don't have to put up with any breaks and hear it all in one. Sound quality is excellent meaning it sounds human, not that easy to achieve given that Sala Kongresowa where it was recorded (Stalin's gift to the ''grateful'' Polish nation) is an unlovable and overly clinical redoubt. SG
Photo: Michael Hoefner