Cecil Taylor: Steps




Cecil Taylor (piano)


Unit Structures (Blue Note CD CD 84237)

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Cecil Taylor (piano), Jimmy Lyons (alto sax), Andrew Cyrille (drums),

Ken McIntyre (alto sax), Henry Grimes, Alan Silva (bass)


Composed by Cecil Taylor


Rating: 86/100 (learn more)

With the exception of three tracks for Gil Evans’ Into The Hot album, Taylor’s 1966 Blue Note sessions were the pianist’s first studio recordings in over five years. During the interim, he continued to develop his band concept on club dates and in concert. “Steps” demonstrates the high-energy improvising, intricate written passages, extreme dynamic shifts, and total rhythmic fragmentation that came to define Taylor’s work. The first few minutes are a formidable thicket—tangled lines and broken phrases—that may discourage first-time listeners, but a structure reveals itself, the piece becoming an episodic sequence of recognizable events (saxophone solos, a piano/drums duo). The muddy, inaudible basses are a major drawback, though.

Reviewer: Joe Petrucelli

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  • 1 Shelly Rusten // Sep 17, 2008 at 12:07 AM
    Unit Structures is Cecil Taylor at his BEST. This is the most satisfying music he ever created and recorded in that as its name describes, this is Cecil in a more Structured Context. The problem with what was (is) known as 'Free Jazz' is that it was doomed to be even more boringly repetitive than what it came into being to replace, namely the earlier standard Be Bop repertoire with its restrictively extensive chord changes and AABA song form. Free Jazz ended up desperate NEED of Structure because without it there is nothing for a lay listener or audience to grab on to and certainly nothing they can 'take home' with them melodically. In Unit Structures and also 'The Conquistador' with some of the same players as appear on this date, Cecil Taylor laid out a New Direction that so called Avant Garde Jazz could take, the need to create New Forms rather than just jettisoning Form and Structure altogether. Too bad he did not follow that direction himself after this. If you needed only One or Two Cecil Taylor recordings 'Unit Structures' and 'The Conquistador' are my 'well informed' recommendations.