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Taylor: Conversations With Tony Oxley

Taylor: Conversations With Tony Oxley

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Cecil Taylor, who died on April 5, 2018 in his hometown of Brooklyn, had a style all his own. With Ornette Coleman (1930 – 2015) he began in the 1960s to develop a music dominated by tone clusters and staccato notes that we later came to know as free jazz. The style icon on piano always began his concerts softly, slinking up to the instrument, murmuring texts to himself, almost dance-like, until the entire force of his playing style let the music’s unique power resound. Here we have one of his last concerts from 2008, performed in the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonie. jazzwerkstatt had already begun impressively documenting the era of free jazz with the last recordings of Ornette Coleman (jw 090 'For The Love Of Ornette'). We hear the last sound cascades from Cecil Taylor in 'Conversations with Tony Oxley'.


Taylor said that Oxley‘s playing excited him like no drummer since Sunny Murray, perhaps even more so. They performed in Taylor’s last official recording Ailanthus / Altissima: Bilateral Dimensions Of 2 Root Songs , and when he toured Europe, it was often with Oxley as a duo. This album was recorded at the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonic in February, 2008.

Taylor was attracted to Oxley’s playing because of his unique sound, centered on a selection of different cymbals. His more fine-grained approach combined with Taylor’s supersonic technique resembles a musical shower of shooting stars. Oxley uses a highly original drum set consisting of regular (but higher pitched) drums and cymbals to create “intricate soundscapes” giving the music more of a vertical than horizontal sound. Taylor’s playing has almost always had a strict on-the-spot, definite, forward-looking phrasing, and by choosing Oxley he became the connection between modern jazz/blues and European classical traditions.

All this can be heard on Conversations with Tony Oxley. Again, Taylor uses small riffs which he reconstructs and expands, processed in his runs and shifting them to different registers. In the second part of the piece there are many staccato chords, again the basis for the development of certain riffs, but now more aggressive, and as they escalate the typical clusters come into play. Taylor needs some time before he reaches full intensity but as soon as he’s there he’s able to keep the improvisation at an incredible level. Yet there’s also a softness, a more romantic side to his playing that became more pronounced since playing with Oxley, especially towards the end of his life.

On this album Oxley foils Taylor’s runs and staccato chords with short drum rolls, but when it comes to dynamics he follows the pianist’s guidelines. Oxley dances around Taylor’s clusters tenderly and puts them even more to the center, cutting through them at once. Especially in the more intense parts of the piece, Oxley uses his whole lower array of percussion. In this performance as elsewhere they are complimentary, which is why their cooperation worked over so many years. Their music is about the exchange of cultural experiences and the sensitivity of sound – different musical languages, but mutually inspiring. By using its extremes within a split second, he is creating rhythmic illusions and simultaneously unfolding a vast color palette”. No other drummer except Tony Oxley was able to match that range in such a sympathetic way.

-- Free Jazz Collective

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Jazzwerkstatt
    • UPC/Barcode: 4250317420480
    • Item Number: JW 198