- Vinyl (2 December 2014)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Import
- Label: Doxy Records
- ASIN: B00NO9LD46
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Audio Cassette | Vinyl
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Looking Ahead! Import
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"One of Cecil Taylor's earliest recordings, Looking Ahead! (1959) does just that while still keeping several toes in the tradition. It's an amazing document of a talent fairly straining at the reins, a meteor about to burst onto the jazz scene and render it forever changed. Looking Ahead! is a vital recording from the nascence of one of the towering geniuses of modern music and belongs in any jazz fan's collection." -AllMusic
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
master pianist Cecil Taylor, the glories of LOOKING AHEAD
may pose quite an intriguing chapter to discover, and quite
the surprise. Among Taylor's earliest recordings, the late
1950s album finds the acclaimed freewheeler just as
formidable in "traditional" settings as he is stretching
them into the unknown. Rather than concern yourself
with which Taylor is better, put aside such foolishness,
and enjoy this brisk package of robust swing, abundantly
fueled by other things.
The quartet Taylor helms here includes bassist Buell
Neidlinger and drummer Dennis Charles, familiar to
anyone recalling the pianist's first recordings with
soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. Here, however, the
quartet's fourth member is vibraphonist Earl Griffith,
whose wonderfully-staccato style is a perfect complement
to Taylor's already-whirling approach. While a listen
to this album make stir some to wonder how Cecil Taylor
and vibes wizard Walt Dickerson would sound together,
there is no denying the particular joy of Griffith's
highly personal sound.
Thus, LOOKING AHEAD is a superb showcase, standing alone
in the Taylor canon. Produced by acclaimed writer Nat
Hentoff (whose exceptional liner notes remind us that
critical analysis can be insightful and provocative in
responsible hands), the pianist's only album for
Contemporary Records more than makes the label live
up to its name!
The compositions are a delight, from the gospel shout
of "Luyah! The Glorious Step" to the serenade of
Griffith's "African Violets", from the head-nodding
"Of What" to the strolling finger-snap of "Wallering"
and the wistful travelogue of "Toil".
In particular, dig the album's grand finale, Taylor's
locomotive tribute to Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington.
Written on the changes of Strayhorn's epic "Take The A
Train", "Excursions On A Wobbly Rail" is bold, buoyant
and breathtakingly beautiful.
Singing its streamlined way across all boundaries, the
merry romp and ride points ever so cunningly to broader
vistas, just beyond the next bend...
Musically, this is a unique record in Taylor's catalog, and it sits somewhere closer to the innovations of Ornette Coleman than to his later works-- the rhythm section is in an adventerous bop vein-- both occasionally leave behind their foundations for a more abstract approach, but largely maintenance of swing is essential. Taylor and Griffith are largely focused on intertwining lines-- Taylor in fact plays more single-note runs than I've heard anywhere else in his catalog to foil Griffith well. Earl Griffith is a bit of the ace in the hole for Taylor-- I have no idea where this guy went, but his playing shows an unusual sensitivity for his instrument and a fine understanding of Taylor's music. There is a space, an openness, an arythmic and polytonal approach that allows room for the musicians to work-- check Taylor's solo and the traded figures with Charles on "Excursions on a Wobbly Rail", the album's standout, to get a good feel for this. Taylor's future is laid out, but its definitely a growth rather than the full-on assault his later work would be. Also pointing closer to the future is "Of What", the densest song where, like in Taylor's later work, the quartet seems to operate as one instrument, interwining and voices rising and falling between each other.
The remainder of the pieces are a bit more open, with emphasis on intersecting single-note lines between Taylor and Griffith ("Luyah! The Glorious Step"), a lyrical ballad (composed by Griffith-- "African Violets") that shows a side of Taylor we rarely see and a piece that emphasizes space and openness in opposition to the usual Taylor density ("Wallering").
Taylor would reach greater heights as his idiom came together and his musicians were more sympathetic, but this record is a superb example of his finding his way. Recommended.
I mean, you EXPECT the unexpected for Cecil, but the expected unexpectedly? Hardly. For the uninitiated, begin HERE, track 1, right off the bat it's Ellington as a mental patient, swinging to an unswung beat as the band takes different kinds of dope, each swinging erratically but damn if it all MAKES SENSE!
Excursions on a Wobbly Rail indeed...you see, Cecil wasn't trying to re-invent jazz, he was trying to ADVANCE it (see first album title, see this album title). So you don't drop what you've learned, you lean on it... you keep the soul but change the mind, hell it was time! Post-bop that most stopped, making Cecil flee to the drudgery of dishwashing not long after this. But HERE is what he heard, and you can still hear it, swaying like willow tree its branches all together, but all separate to a different drum. Don't get it? Then get it, as in pick it up. Jazz still ain't caught up yet...
My sense? If you're already into Cecil Taylor, it's a worthwhile addition to your collection. But if you're new to Cecil Taylor, start with one of his later solo piano albums and get used to him first.