FMP Archive Edition: Cecil Taylor’s “Almeda (To Matie)”

Cecil Taylor, 1999. Photo by Dagmar Gebers.

In the past, we’ve been proud to make available FMP titles that have languished out-of-print for many decades. But now FMP is going a step further – digging into their vaults to release exceptional music that’s never been previously available!

We couldn’t be more excited to be the exclusive purveyors of the “FMP Archive Editions,” and there’s no better musician to launch the series than legendary pianist, composer, and bandleader Cecil Taylor. It’s also timely, since there’s a remarkable celebration of Taylor’s music in New York City happening this month — featuring tribute performances by other pianists and several solo shows by the maestro himself. Scroll down for more on that.

Almeda (To Matie) features a previously unreleased concert by Cecil Taylor’s band from November 3, 1996. His large ensemble work has never been documented enough, so this is an especially welcome addition to his discography. The first three tracks feature different permutations of the group essaying musical variations of the theme. Although Cecil doesn’t play on these tracks, they offer a prime opportunity to focus on his skills as composer and bandleader.

The entire piece pulls together in the 36-minute final track, featuring Taylor at the piano, along with five horn players, Tristan Honsinger on cello, Dominic Duval on double bass, and Jackson Krall on drums. Cecil leads the band through a storming but nuanced number that launches the Berlin audience to its feet. You’ll likely have the same reaction.

Cecil Taylor, 1996. Photo by Dagmar Gebers.

As mentioned, Taylor is being feted later this month in New York, with a series of shows in his honor, and a couple of solo performances from the man himself (seemingly sold out already). Billed as “A Celebration of the Maestro,” the multi-part festival kicks off with two nights of performances by Vijay Iyer, Amina Claudine Myers, Craig Taborn, and Amiri Bakraka at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse Tuesday and Wednesday this week. This is an awesome gathering of some of our favorite pianists from the generation(s) that followed Taylor; if you have any questions about Cecil’s influence on the current crop of musicians, it’s telling that several of the hottest and most respected young pianists are paying tribute. Taylor is appearing solo — an increasingly rare event — on Thursday night, 17 May, also at the Harlem Stage, and again on Saturday, 19 May, at the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn.

Anyone just coming to this story now would do well to check out Ben Ratliff’s great interview and profile of Taylor, which ran in last week’s New York Times. Then maybe listen to/buy Almeda (To Matie), above — or perhaps Celebrated Blazons – catch the films screening at the Anthology Film Archives on 22 May, and just keep your ears and eyes open. Cecil Taylor is worth celebrating in whatever form you can find him.

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