Skylarking

T (BEAUTIFUL YOUNG’N)
I (SISTER YOUNG’N)

ENSASLAYI

Cecil Taylor
Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly!
MPS : 1980

CT, piano.

It’s a sad irony of adventurous jazz: Many of the most fun and accessible recordings remain stubbornly obscure or out-of-print. The readily available albums that people assume are gateways into the music are often nothing of the sort. We know countless avant jazz newbies who wanted to explore Cecil Taylor and inevitably picked up Unit Structures. It was on Blue Note, so it had to be fairly tame, right? Cue panic and stricken looks. Unit Structures is a great record but hardly the place to start. We hate to think how many potential Cecil Taylor fans it’s scared the pants off.

If those same people had instead picked up a copy of Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly!, we bet a large number would’ve been converted. This solo piano concert, recorded live in Germany, contains some of Taylor’s most concise and lyrical playing. It still delivers the shock of the new, but the logic of these pieces is more on the surface and they’re short enough that they encourage multiple spins.

The meditative koan “T (Beautiful Young’n)” clocks in at a mere 53 seconds. The trilling phrases and spacious melodicism of “I (Sister Young’n)” coalesce in less than two and a half minutes. And “Ensaslayi” provides a taste of  Taylor’s wilder extremes in an eight minute composition that patiently builds to a frenetically satisfying release. Like the title suggests, the album traffics in controlled exuberance.

Fly! X 5 offers many of the signature motifs of Cecil’s mature style — and in their most digestible form. Which isn’t to say it’s watered down. This is another exceptional record in Taylor’s canon. Unfortunately it’s also one of his rarer releases. To the best of our knowledge, this has never even been released on compact disc.  For the sake of future Taylor fans, let’s hope somebody out there rectifies that soon.

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What are some albums you play to interest open-eared friends? Are there any adventurous jazz albums that you wish you’d waited to hear?

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