For those of you in the 91.1/90.1 listening area, a chance to see two masters at work today through Sunday at the Village Vanguard, two sets each night. It is sort of amazing to realize that Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley began their fruitful collaboration twenty years ago and have played as a duo, as well as in fairly established bands with William Parker (the Feel Trio) and Bill Dixon among others, sporadically since then. I first heard the duo on record from what I think is their first meeting, in Berlin in 1988, collected among the colossal, essential 11-CD FMP box set (scroll down at that link) documenting a month-long run of Cecil (mostly duo) collaborations in that city, and released as a single disc as Leaf Palm Hand. (The box is long out of print, but the discs in the set have been released separately, and Leaf Palm Hand has been reissued on the JazzWerkstatt label.) Gary Giddins claimed in his review of the box, that CT is responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall having "loosened bricks and mortar and wrested the barbed wire" with the sheer force of his whirlwind activity in Berlin in 1988.
Leaf Palm Hand might have been the album that pushed me over the edge to full-on screaming obsession with Taylor's music. I do remember listening to it the first time on headphones and being pretty much riveted for the full hour plus, and feeling dizzy, yet energized, when it finally ended. Listening again now, as with much of Taylor's music, one is impressed by the stamina of the players, however, the overarching vibe is a cliff-walking sensitivity, a spider-sense, of bursting compacted lyricism. It's hard to fathom that Oxley is playing "just" drums and Taylor "just" piano, since they both seem to occupy bigger sonic realms. Taylor does most of the goading, but the improvisational give and take is so quick and deliberate and forceful and instinctual. The AllMusic.com review aptly calls the performance "soulful": for anyone who suggests avant jazz or improv or whatever lacks "soul", here is all the evidence needed. The thing is dripping with the stuff, soaked like a rag in gasoline.
To warm you up for the Vanguard gig, here's an excerpt of a radio recording of Taylor/Oxley doing their thing, from Teatro Comunale, Modena, Italy, October 11th, 2007. Many thanks to the excellent blog Inconstant Sol for posting this (the complete recording can be found over there).
Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley - Part 2 (from Live in Teatro Comunale, Modena 11th October 2007)