May 19, 2016

Cecil Taylor - Dark To Themselves (1976)

I love Cecil Taylor. He's one of the few 70s free jazz artists who I fully embrace. Music from the likes of Archie Shepp, Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Ornette Coleman in that decade is just too out there and superfluous for me to enjoy 100% of the time. I respect that stuff, but recognize it's just not for me. Dark To Themselves is a single hour-long piece performed live in a Yugoslavian art festival, likely a message to the capitalist world. Taylor displays his usual percussive intensity, but seems--at least to me--less aggressive and forthright than his other legendary live album from the mid-70s, Silent Tongues. This is probably due to the presence of supporting musicians. Solo Cecil Taylor is intriguing, but I think he sounds even better with a band. I see this as the soothing kind of free jazz that you can take naps to; similar to Conquistador, an album Cecil Taylor recorded 10 years before and one of my all-time favorite free jazz albums. It seems this album has held a reservation close to my heart for a quite a while. If it's usually hard for you to find peace among the chaos in free jazz, try this out. Silent Tongues and Unit Structures, probably Taylor's most famous albums, feature some incredible pieces, but they are awfully geometric and lack the unmistakable fluidity expressed here. So go get yourself a blanket, put your feet up, and let this carry you away.