A few months ago I started doing an unassuming segment on my radio show called "Hey Cecil!" dedicated to playing a longer track by one of the world's most enigmatic musicians, Cecil Taylor. If there's any artist that encapsulates my love for music, it's Cecil. His music can be utterly confounding, difficult to process, dense and frustrating. (I can only imagine the focus, endurance and creative energy it must take to perform an hour-plus piano solo.) But on the other hand Cecil's music can be charming, funny, stunningly beautiful, funky, mosaic-like, and therapeutic, encouraging your brain to disengage while the tones rinse you out, or challenging your synapses to process the motion as the clusters of notes tumble forth. It's music that reveals itself over time, if you let it, like a film that divulges details and plot points on a second or tenth viewing.
Here's a video of Cecil's band in November of 1966 playing on French TV. It looks like it was recorded video cam style off the TV so the audio isn't great, but really, you won't care. This is the same month that the Student Studies album was recorded Two records on Blue Note from 1966, Unit Structures and Conquistador are all-out classics, and serve to delineate Cecil's raison d'etre for the next half decade or so. Student Studies, though, may be my favorite of the 1966 trifecta. It's the most downright psychedelic Cecil ever got with whooshing drone-y cymbal washes, the high pitched arco bass of Alan Silva and Jimmy Lyons's weird repetitive one-note sax theme. It's really cooking by the time Cecil plays the innards of the piano with mallets. This is head music. The band is: Cecil Taylor, piano; Jimmy Lyons, alto; Alan Silva, bass; Andrew Cyrille, drums. (Thanks to Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches for posting this one first.) Two tracks from Student Studies aired two weeks ago here.