106CD - Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley - Being Astral And All Registers / Power Of Two - CD plus download

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Description

Cecil Taylor - piano
Tony Oxley - drums

 

A live (first class quality) recording of the duo from 2002 - from the personal archives of Tony Oxley.

"With the turn of the Millennium American pianist Cecil Taylor halted his recording activity almost entirely, but continued to play concerts for another decade or so, many of which were recorded. That last decade of his musical activity is almost completely defined by the performances in a duo setting with the British percussionist Tony Oxley, with whom Taylor had a long-standing collaboration since the 1980s when his activities moved to Europe, some of which were released in the years that followed.

The musical synergy between Taylor and Oxley is one of the most natural and artistically fulfilling manifestations of the "Art of the Duo" idiom. After all these two musicians share many common qualities: they are revolutionaries, pioneers, visionaries and free spirits, who expanded the realms of music perhaps more significantly than is commonly acknowledged. It is not only what they managed to create over the years but also how they did it: boldly, uncompromisingly, and above all consistently.

There are many reasons why Taylor and Oxley fit together so well, speak the same musical language and communicate telepathically. Taylor's playing was always associated with the characteristic percussive polyrhythmic attack on the piano, which is well complemented by the multitude of drumming paraphernalia used by Oxley during his recordings / performances in order to create a kaleidoscope of not only rhythms but notes as well. This "exchange" of roles, i.e. drumming on the piano and playing on the drums is what bonds them so well together.

This album is a perfect continuation to the reissue of the "February Papers" album by Tony Oxley, released earlier this year on Discus Music, bringing some of the most ambitious and significant music on this planet to the connoisseurs, always ready to enjoy it to the last drop."

 - Adam Baruch, October 2020 

 

Photo of Cecil Taylor courtesy of Dagmar Gebers.

Reviews

Flamboyant free jazz progenitor Cecil Taylor enjoyed a somewhat unlikely musical partnership with Sheffield-born drummer and improv pioneer Tony Oxley from their first meeting on 1988 right up until Taylor’s death in 2018. In fact, for the last decade of his life – long after he’d stopped recording, around the turn of the millennium – playing with Oxley remained Taylor’s preferred mode of expression. On this live performance recorded in 2002, it’s easy to hear why. While Taylor favours a heavily percussive attack – famously described by Val Wilmer as akin to playing “88 tuned drums” – Oxley approaches the kit as a paint box of timbres and textures, reached through extended technique and a rig augmented with scraps of metal, gongs and bells. As Taylor lunges and cartwheels like a Conlon Nancarrow player-piano on hyper-drive and Oxley issues ghostly shrieks and metallic whispers, it’s almost as if the two stylists have agreed to trade roles. Moreover, while the idea of telepathic communion has become a commonplace when describing the process of making improvised music, with Taylor and Oxley there’s a real sense of something uncanny in the sudden stops and blossoming moments of beauty. They were, without doubt, masters at work. - Daniel Spicer, JAZZWISE

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Taken from the personal archives of UK drummer/percussionist Tony Oxley, this extremely well recorded duo session with frequent collaborator, iconoclastic NY pianist Cecil Taylor, are heard in a live performance at the Ulrichsberg Festival, Austria in 2002 for a brilliantly frenetic and masterfully controlled, creative set of two jaw-dropping extended dialogs. – SQUID’S EAR

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Oxley was one of Taylor’s finest partners, the best behind the drumkit, and his self-effacing quickthinking and choice of colors are an almost Bach-esque counterpoint to Taylor’s clusters, runs and sonic mysteries. As usual with the two, they start playing but the music feels like it had been going on all along between them, before they sat at their instruments. As much as Taylor could stab down on a moment in time, there is a constant linear flow to the music, a flexible suppleness that integrates every event with all those that have come before. Being Astral is essential. - The New York City Jazz Record

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When longtime collaborators Taylor and Oxley get together, the sonic ecosystem that results from their meet-up congeals into a perfect storm. This is not a glib description. Recorded live in 2002, the eruption, eventual flood of, and literal torrent of notes raining down from these two births a tornadic force that is at once overwhelming and dazzling to behold. And this comes from the relative safety of your listening space; imagine being there in person, swept up in the maelstrom. Taylor was 73 at the time of this recording, and the fact that he hadn’t lost a step across the decades was nothing short of remarkable (Oxley, a mere youngster then at 64, nevertheless packs the same wallop). Two massive performances span roughly thirty minutes or more in length, epic trawls buttressing and redressing the free jazz idiom that both players, with pronounced felicity, helped originally usher in. The duo’s synergy has regularly aligned as a metaphorical exchange of their instruments, Taylor’s knack for attacking the piano with percussive abandon, Oxley deconstructing his kit to ignite an eighty-eight ‘key’ fury. The opening set’s notes drizzle unsystematically until the sky opens and those notes finally downpour, Taylor hanging fire with characteristic gusto, creating a funereal atmosphere on the lower registers while tickling out glimpses of sunshine in counterpoint, Oxley thunderstriking his partner with a barrage of rims and cymbals that prod the pianist on to ever more intensive, ecstatic heights. In contrast, and after the previously untethered, orgasmic experience, the second piece's commencement assumes the air of a quiescent, late 60s post-bop date, Taylor scurrying on tiny mouse feet while Oxley navigates around the edges. This changes soon enough, and in quite exuberant fashion—you simply can’t hold either of these two in abeyance for long. Taylor’s landscape alternates between a blur of white treble and gangly bass, Oxley responding in kind as he rifles through his index of metals, both players stretching to the breaking point the very membrane of their instrument, raging against the dying of the light. The stuff of legend, this. Unmissable. - DARREN BERGSTEIN, Downtown Music Gallery

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While piano / drum pairings are not that uncommon, Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley practically wrote the book on how to do so with frenetic energy to spare. They collaborated for nearly 30 years, quite frequently as a duo in the early 2000’s. This 2002 recording, from the personal archives of Oxley and apparently unreleased until now, has both in rare form.

 

Taylor’s percussive style dovetails nicely with Oxley’s jagged rhythms and staggered improvisations. In particular, Taylor’s lines resemble those of a player piano at speed, while Oxley’s cymbal-heavy, hammering approach could easily be mistaken for two or three percussionists. The pair engage in a feverish dialog which rarely lets up across the 33 minutes of Being Astral And All Registers. These relentless walls of notes are complex, manic, and pure joy. Power Of Two slows down and takes a more textural angle, at least during the initial part of its 26 minutes, with more space in Taylor’s powerful chording and Oxley somewhat restrained. Nonetheless, these two cannot hold themselves back and the piece progresses into an endless array of angular and clustered patterns.

 

Notably, Taylor was in his early 70’s when these performances were recorded, and Oxley was only about a decade younger. But they play with the energy and drive of musicians half their age. Indeed, this workout would give anyone a challenge, including the listener.  - AMN Reviews https://avantmusicnews.com/

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Dating back to May 2002, a live recording made at the Ulrichsberg festival in Austria and until now seemingly unreleased, certainly a must and not only for free-jazz appreciators because Cecil Taylor changed jazz and even anticipated Ornette Coleman's free-jazz revolution and his innovations are more of relevance than ever in terms of combatting inertia and actually continuing to gain a better understanding of what free improvisation can sound like in a fully conceived form. (Also of interest in terms of current releases although more on the spoken word and poetry side of Taylor's work and no way nearly as compelling is the issuing of the earlier At Angelica 2000 Bologna.)

 

The realisation remains after listening that the pianist-innovator's music is still more advanced than nearly everything around all these years on. Jazz Advance by his standards a very old fashioned record, but anything but, was only the beginning in 1956. Taylor, who died two years ago, also possessed that sheer grandeur and stateliness that only a few of the greatest pianists (Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Abdullah Ibrahim, Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett) ever exhibited and which means that in all their cases their artistic vision is so vast that pianism is only a part of its totality.

 

All jazz listeners and musicians are still catching up with the scale of Taylor's achievements. We as a world community may never be able to ever grasp all that he has to offer. Taylor is in duo on these two extensive improvisations with one of his most empathetic and longstanding drummer collaborators, the Englishman Tony Oxley whose open, spacious approach is remarkable. Full on and intense but that is only one part of the effect on ……. Being Astral And All Registers / Power Of Two…… because Taylor smashes through to another space entirely, his extensive use of abstraction populating a saturated canvas alert and ready to transform in a maximalist way depending on the way he directs the light to shine on each note and passage. That light means revelation upon revelation. - MARLBANK  https://www.marlbank.net/

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Cecil Taylor left this dimension nearly three years ago now – he’s almost certainly swirling elsewhere, projecting, transmitting; at the very least his towering influence continues to sway jazzers to the freer side. It’s quite possible that Taylor invented free jazz. His late 50s shows – and Ornette Coleman’s too – were the blueprint across the following decade and from there were still the good glue for a whole new generation of musicians working in the 1980s and then again in the early 2000s.  And if Taylor was the one to liberate the piano then Tony Oxley did much the same for the drumkit. Oxley is still with us and so this archival performance comes from his recordings of the duo together; they enjoyed a 30+year performing relationship, challenging themselves and audiences (and usually in that order).   This particular performance is nearly 20 years old – capturing the two at the Ulrichsberg Festival, a famous free-jazz/improv German festival, in May of 2002.

 

The two lengthy instrumental pieces, first Being Astral & All Registers followed by Power of Two, show the exquisite relationship Oxley and Taylor had both together and individually with their instruments.

 

Oxley’s great gift to the drum-kit was using every component without so much as whispering in the direction of a groove. He is a percussionist of the trap-set. He reacts, he punctuates, he is a sound-designer, a conjurer that heightens the mood while summoning it. Taylor shifted piano playing away from the melodic/accompanist role it so often performs in jazz but he does not dispense with groove altogether – there’s a Dark Night of The Soul Groove that informs his work here, creeping, sometimes downright terrifying – he is all whispers in the dark, and to the dark and his is the sound that comes when you open that creaking wardrobe door or check under the bed.  Oxley might as well be battering a baking tray the way he clangs between cymbals and rims – but it’s also performed with a tap-dancer’s precision.

During the brief pause at the conclusion of the half-hour long opening piece, which moves slowly but surely from playful and intriguing to an all-out cataclysmic cacophony, there’s a moment where you can basically hear the audience thinking, catching up to what they’ve just heard. A respectful silence to drink in the magic and then the whoops and hollers of an elated group that has witnessed a happening. As that applause drops down Power of Two moves into place, first with some simple piano notes that Oxley punctuates with bells and cymbals. And then working up a lather of stick clicks and rolls and dynamic crashes as Taylor’s fingers dance faster and harder and stronger and clearer – and at one point it is almost a case of peering deep into a blur to decipher if the noise is from the drum kit or the piano key; of course the answer is that it’s from the painted combination.

 

Free jazz duos – particularly the piano and drum variety – are not at all uncommon. They are exciting and to many they are utterly and absolutely off-putting. But if you want to dip a tentative toe in then this is the very water to broach.  It’s wonderful to have Oxley opening the archives so we can access this.  How joyous to hear Taylor and Oxley opening wide their very souls.  https://offthetracks.co.nz/cecil-taylor-tony-oxley-being-astral-all-registers-power-of-two/

 

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The legendary pianist Cecil Taylor’s studio output started to wane as the new millennium dawned. However, his concert schedule remained active, especially in the duo context with the veteran British drummer Tony Oxley. This album was recorded at the the Ulrichsberg Jazz Festival in Austria in 2002, with two lengthy duo improvisations that are very compelling. The first track, the half hour long “Being Astral and All Registers”  is an explosive and enlightening piece of work. Playing with great speed and alacrity, Taylor is all over the keyboard, building waves of complex sound. His music may be fast and free, but it remains logical, and regardless how complex the music becomes, Oxley is with him every step of the way. He meets Taylor’s idiosyncratic and original way of playing with his own, completing the pianist’s strong percussive technique with an open minded sensibility which makes them ideal partners. The second and final track, “Power of Two” takes the music in a different direction with the musicians using shifts in tone and dynamics to guide the sound into unexpected places. Taylor had long been a patron and participant in other art forms such as poetry and dance, and the progress of the music on this track bares the influence of this, as the music opens up with a sense of breath and flows gracefully to its conclusion. This was a very enjoyable concert that was played with grace and vigor. Sound quality is excellent and you can hear in detail the intricate level of cooperation between Taylor and Oxley.  https://jazzandblues.blogspot.com/

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If a lot of “contemporary jazz” is a sound of indifference, then this release is a sound of commitment. Generalisations sweeping or otherwise are often risky, and that’s true here, but the fact remains that Taylor and Oxley broach no compromise. Theirs is a sound world that makes demands of the listener, and furthermore makes demands of themselves.

 

Yet while there are passages in both of the lengthy pieces where the mental effort it takes to keep abreast of developments is great, there are by way of welcome contrast also passages of a barely earthly beauty akin to those that the trio of Peter Brotzmann, Fred Van Hove and Han Bennink summoned up nigh on half a century ago.

 

There are passages of a third order too, as in that which occurs around the 18-minute mark of Power Of Two, which is not so much a compromise between the ones referred to above as it is a kind of modest game changer, where the underlying rhythmic activity is offset by the relatively becalmed surface of the music. Here Taylor’s at his most lyrical, although such a term cannot be applied without due concessions to the free-spirited sound worlds he spent a lifetime creating. As the piece evolves from that point onwards it becomes clear also that Taylor and Oxley shared a highly developed sensitivity when it came to valuing silence or near silence.

 

Around the 15 and a half minute mark of Being Astral And All Registers a similar shift of intensity occurs, so it’s not as though such moments of mutually agreed diversion came unnaturally. The effect of the shift is similar, but in detail quite different, which only goes to show that even such pioneers as this pair keep a foot in the world as it is, while hinting emphatically at worlds yet to be mapped. – Nic Jones, JAZZ JOURNAL

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Serial collaborators Tony Oxley and Cecil Taylor had this 2002 show recorded, and Discus have released it as a showcase for the kind of joyful power of which the duo was capable of. That it is the overriding sensation that comes from Being Astral And All Registers: joy; at times an utterly maniacal joy but joy nevertheless.

The feeling of freedom that flows throughout the two long pieces here is something that leaps from the speakers and suffuses the listener. They each start slowly, but once the rhythm is rolling, the piano is battered like another percussion instrument and Taylor’s hands rattle from one end of the keyboard to the other, as if chasing a herd of troublesome mice. Oxley follows closely behind, reacting immediately to the notes at hand, at times sounding like somebody clearing out their garage.

 

I have no idea what encompasses his percussion setup, but it sounds as though it entails far more than drums. There are points where the doomy low notes of the piano are accompanied by the sound of squealing car tyres or cardboard boxes and bags. I mean, at one point, it sounded as though a trolley car was being pushed off a cliff, with the bell clanging while Taylor beat the piano to a point where you thought it might collapse as the audience whooped in delirious anticipation.

Some of the deep, resonant notes here feel like a slap on the back from some enormous, effusive uncle who doesn’t know his own strength, but their interplay is exquisite and their energy is something else, because the effort that is being expended here is palpable. They are both engaging in some workout and nothing is repeated. That is the extraordinary aspect; every step, every moment is a fresh outbreak of thrilling adventure, but the sweet thing is every now and again, just for a second, the piano arrives at a brief reminder of something from the past. It might be a snippet of some ragtime melody or a hint of a classical piece, or maybe he has just remembered that he wanted to throw in some juxtaposition; and then they dash back off into the undergrowth, scaring up the birds and animals and scampering like truants away from civilisation.

 

It is impossible for the listener to second-guess where the duo will go, and it is a little like being blindfolded and put on a roller-coaster. There is no precedent, so everything feels fresh and the intuition is a marvel. The sounds and textures both of the piano and percussion are so varied that at times the percussion is lighter than the piano and comes across like a blustering snowstorm, whirling in your eyes, surrounding you with soft whiteness and preventing you from putting one foot in front of the other. At other points, the exquisite tones of the piano in the gentler sections are urged and harried by the explosive percussion or maybe the wash of the sea overtakes you as cymbals spray and slap against the bows.

 

The relentless invention shown by Taylor and Oxley here is second to none, and the best thing to do is just sit back and allow the uproar to engulf you and be swept away. -Mr Olivetti, FREQ http://freq.org.uk/reviews

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Cecil Taylor et Tony Oxley ont été réunis en 1988 dans le gigantesque projet de concerts à Berlin dont le label FMP a publié une collection impressionnante de duos, un trio et deux grands orchestres initiant la plus importante collaboration de « l’inventeur du free-jazz » avec une compagnie discographique. De cette série berlinoise mémorable, s’est développée l’association la plus durable de Cecil Taylor avec un musicien après la disparition de Jimmy Lyons. Suite au duo historique de Palm Leaf Hand (FMP) de 1988, Taylor et Oxley se sont produits fréquemment dans le Feel Trio avec le contrebassiste William Parker (The Feel Trio : Looking et Celebrated Blazons) durant les années 90 et puis en duo. Depuis le décès de Cecil, sont parus trois albums réunissant les deux musiciens sur les labels jazzwerkstatt (Conversations with T.O.), Fundacja Sluchak (Birdland Neuburg 2011) et maintenant chez Discus, grâce à Tony Oxley et Martin Archer. La pochette de … being astral and all registers – power of two… est ornée de fragments de tableaux d’Oxley qui évoquent à la fois le Thelonious Monk de Victor Brauner figurant sur la pochette d’Only Monk de Steve Lacy et les œuvres du peintre Alan Davie avec qui Oxley a souvent joué et gravé un inoubliable duo (Alan Davie Music Workshop 005 réédité en cd par a/l/l il y a presque vingt ans). Alan Davie lui a instillé le déclic pour se mettre à la peinture.


La caractéristique fondamentale du travail de Cecil Taylor avec les batteurs successifs depuis Sunny Murray est à la fois un challenge et une complémentarité organique dans le jeu « libre » avec une profonde adéquation entre la pratique du jeu pianistique et celle de la batterie. Le tandem avec Andrew Cyrille reste dans toutes les mémoires, il y eut aussi Marc Edwards, Beaver Harris, Shannon Jackson, Rashid Baker, Thurman Barker… quand, soudainement, la présence de Tony Oxley a introduit d’autres paramètres inspirés par la musique contemporaine d’avant-garde. Il y a la volonté d’exprimer des contrastes abrupts, de briser les symétries, de diversifier les sources sonores et d’instaurer des disruptions centrifuges. Le rôle du hi-hat, de la caisse claire et de la cymbale ride qui servaient aux batteurs tayloriens à moduler et propulser le flux de la « danse dans l’espace » du pianiste s’est mué dans une transposition de la hiérarchie des éléments de la batterie et des frappes dans un no-man’s land moins prévisible, presqu’aléatoire tout aussi excitant et ô combien singulier ! Deux longues constructions communes s’étalent en contractant le temps et le sentiment de durée (… being astral and all registers …. : 33 minutes et power of two…. : 26 minutes 46 secondes). Dans cet opus titanesque, le batteur n’hésite pas à se faire très discret en fouettant légèrement ses cymbales et mettant quelques coups épars sur un woodblock ou un crotale cristallin dans une atmosphère plus intimiste. Il y a une réelle frénésie dans le jeu d’Oxley même quand ses alliages de timbres rares ne haussent pas le ton : il suggère la vitesse supersonique désarticulant les fondements des arcs fulgurants tracés par Taylor dans l’espace : les doigtés se contractent, se chevauchent et démultiplient dans un chant percussif explosif qui contracte inexorablement le temps. Chaque séquence de déflagrations d’énergie rencontre son pendant de drame au bord du gouffre : les silences naissent entre les touchers espacés qui font frémir les câbles et la carcasse du grand piano. Les éléments métalliques du kit oxleyien murmurent, parties intégrantse du silence taylorien et détails sonores minutieux de gestes précis à l’écoute anticipative de l’orage qui ne va pas tarder à gronder. Les incantations au clavier appellent progressivement les méandres fastueux d’un ballet jupitérien, les accessoires percussifs se soulèvent et résonnent sous la force tellurique des avant-bras, poignets, épaules et phalanges olympiennes de l’oracle du piano. Il y a autant de retenue dans la débauche d’énergies que d’explosions exacerbées. Par enchantement, les duettistes font durer et métamorphoser la surprise jusqu’au bout, créant ainsi le concept de certitude aléatoire, en laissant se développer des canevas mélodiques clairsemés dans un enchaînement impromptu de miniatures, retenant jusqu’au bout la combustion rituelle escamotée ici pour un jeu purement introspectif et cela jusqu’à la dernière note. Cecil Taylor a parsemé son cheminement créatif de chefs d’œuvre enregistrés : Looking Ahead, D Trad, What’s That?, Nefertiti, Conquistador, Student’s Studies, Indent, Silent Tongues, One Too Many Swift, Olim, The Tree Of Life … On doit absolument ajouter à cette liste ces deux derniers duos avec Tony Oxley, soit le Birdland Neuburg 2011, magnifiquement aéré et épuré et ce Live At Ulrichsberg Festival 2002. Ils s’imposent comme les offrandes ultimes à son fidèle public et autant qu’à ceux qui seraient amenés à découvrir son art pour la première fois. Tous auront droit au meilleur de Cecil Taylor … et de Tony Oxley !   – Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg     https://orynx-improvandsounds.blogspot.com/2020/12/derek-bailey-mototeru-takagi-pascal.html

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