Cecil Taylor – The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert
Release date: February 15, 2022
Label: Oblivion Records
The upcoming release of Cecil Taylor – The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert marks the first chance for listeners to hear the legendary pianist’s 1973 return to live performance in full. The concert saw Taylor reunite with Cecil Taylor Unit members Jimmy Lyons (alto saxophone) and Andrew Cyrille (percussion), with the addition of Sirone on bass. This project, assembled by the original producer and recording engineer Fred Seibert, is a much-anticipated opportunity to hear the missing piece of a puzzle long-thought lost, that adds another chapter to the story of Taylor’s search for artistic freedom.
Taylor, one of the undisputed giants of free improvisation, made his return to live performance at The Town Hall, New York City on November 4, 1973. The second part of the concert produced a recording – a limited-run LP was made of the now seminal two-part ‘Spring of Two Blue-J’s’, released on Taylor’s own Unit Core label. Now, with the advent of digital recordings, the landmark ‘return’ concert is now available in its entirety, committing the 88-minute epic ‘Autumn/Parade’ to official release for the first time ever.
Taylor’s combination of restless pianistic energy and truly virtuosic artistic spirit quickly cemented his unassailable status as a true pioneer of the free jazz movement. Yet, a succession of celebrated Blue Note releases meant that, by the early 1970s, Taylor was entering a period of unprecedented financial security. By 1973, the 44-year-old Taylor had been in self-imposed recording exile for five years, choosing instead to focus on pursuing academia. In that time, Taylor worked as a visiting professor at Antioch College and University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as dedicating time to composing.
Except for ‘Indent’, a solo piano release recorded at Antioch earlier in ’73, this was a total hiatus from recording – surprising perhaps, given the respect that recent releases Unit Structures and Conquistador! had both commanded, so thoughts of a new live album recorded in New York was a tantalizing prospect.
And so it proved. Earlier in 1973, Fred Seibert, a student at Columbia who worked at the adventurously minded WKCR Radio station, had been approached by a mysterious figure in David Laura, who had a proposal for aspiring record producer Seibert. He was going to bring the Cecil Taylor Unit to The Town Hall, and he wanted Seibert to record it.
“We were memorializing what was billed as a triumphant return,” says Seibert in his producer’s note. The Unit concert was a massive success – it reunited Taylor with long-time associates Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille along with newcomer Sirone on bass. Seibert recorded the whole concert, and, after mixing it with help from legendary engineer Tony May, a recording of the band’s second set, Spring of Two Blue-J’s made it out into the world in 1974.
Critically speaking, Spring of Two Blue-J’s was a success. Village Voice critic Gary Giddins named the album “Record of the Year”, and years later commented that it “announced Taylor’s permanent reestablishment in the music world, an end to his marginalization, and the evidence of a maturity.” It was Giddins’ record of the year. But Blue J-s only represents a third of the concert that occurred that evening. Due to the limitations of the LP format, and the impact that would make on the realisation of the group’s vision, the decision was made to not release the first 88-minute continuous set.
‘Autumn/Parade’ has many of the hallmarks of Taylor compositions and performances of the period: supercharged spontaneity, improvisational stamina, boundary transgressing in its brazen commitment to just keeping on going, and an unfettered exchange of artistic expression from four equal partners. It’s a raw, visceral musical experience for anybody listening today, which speaks to the unrelenting freshness of Taylor’s approach.
Highlights of the new recording include: Taylor’s piano rebounded an hour into the opener that pave the way for something imitative to fly around for just a second; Lyons’ soloistic flitting, oscillations that encompasses the whole of the instrument, and the piano-dominated final half hour of ‘Autumn/Parade’ that reaches the summit of a colossal musical peak, before reaching a hard-fought conclusion. But what emerges over the course of the whole return concert recording is more evidence of Taylor breaking down the final barriers of jazz conventions in pursuit of artistic freedom. The new complete recording is an exhilarating, detailed longshot of one of the greats in full flight.
The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert by Cecil Taylor will be available as a digital release on February 11, 2021 via Oblivion Records. Accompanying the digital release is a 23-page booklet featuring an essay by Alan Goodman. This release marks a revival for Oblivion – the label’s last announced release was in 1975.
About Oblivion Records
Oblivion Records is an independent American music company, revived during the pandemic to drop a digital release of the historic performance of the Cecil Taylor Unit at The Town Hall in New York City in 1973.
Oblivion was started by Dick Pennington, Tom Pomposello and Fred Seibert, in the back room of Kropotkin Records, a 1970’s indie record store in Huntington, Long Island. Initially conceived to record Tom’s Americana roots blend of blues, folk and rock, the company’s first release turned out to be the last recording of the legendary country blues singer Mississippi FredMcDowell. More blues, electronic jazz, and traditional jazz vocals followed, all before Honest Tom Pomposello finally came out in 1975.
- Autumn/Parade (88:00) (quartet)
- Spring of Two Blue-J’s Part 1 (16:15) (solo)
- Spring of Two Blue-J’s Part 2 (21:58) (quartet)
Label: Oblivion Records (OD-8)
Cecil Taylor – compositions, piano
Jimmy Lyons – alto saxophone
Andrew Cyrille – percussion
Sirone – bass
"Finally presented in full, The Live Return Concert is an instant classic, half a century in the making." Read more here.
"The performance is a strong example of Cecil's work from that era...glorious." Read it here.