Along with Ornette Coleman (1930 – ), Cecil Taylor (1929 – ) was
one of the main progenitors of “free Jazz” in the late 1950’s.
A classically trained pianist, Taylor’s Jazz piano stylings were
marked with a crystalline clarity, and the music on this album
featured the lightning-fast runs and tone clusters that were
By the time that “Unit Structures” was recorded in 1966, both
Taylor and Coleman were at the height of their popularity in the
avant-garde Jazz scene. The five tracks on this 56-minute,
1990 rerelease are representative of Taylor’s work, as a leader
of an instrumental “collective.” Any ties to traditional Jazz are
hard to spot here, but if you listen carefully, you can hear them.
However, I think that it’s safe to say that these “ties” are
beside the point, because this is music of exploration and
should be heard on its own terms. This is extremely challenging
stuff, and not recommended for the musically “faint of heart.”
Extreme concentration is required, and many listeners won’t be
willing to make the effort. However, those who do listen will
find these tunes texturally and melodically interesting. This is
basically collective improvisation, without a harmonic
“ground plan” or guidelines. Apparently, the only prerequisite
was that these musicians acutely listened to each other.
In the event that you thought that the liner notes written by
Taylor would provide insight about these recordings—guess again.
Taylor was a poet as well as a pianist, and “the notes” are a
long, stream-of-consciousness essay entitled, “Sound Structure of
Subculture Becoming Major Breath/Naked Fire Gesture.” The essay
is only helpful when disentangling the music in a “peripherally
abstract” way. In other words, you must take the plunge yourself.
Incidentally, the final track entitled “Tales (8 Whisps)” just featured
Taylor playing with occasional bass and drums, and provided me with
an ideal opportunity to focus on Taylor’s piano skills. What I heard
was highly chromatic music, played with jaw-dropping virtuosity.
In addition, the third track was an alternate take of the second
track (“Enter, Evening”), and was not included on the original LP.
These compositions were all “written” by Cecil Taylor. For the
adventurous, this demanding music is well worth hearing.