Cecil Taylor's Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come: A Landmark Performance of Free Jazz
Cecil Taylor was one of the most influential and innovative pianists in the history of jazz. His style of playing was characterized by dense clusters of notes, complex rhythms, and a disregard for conventional harmony and structure. He was a pioneer of free jazz, a genre that challenged the boundaries and conventions of jazz and music in general.
One of his most acclaimed recordings is Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come, a live album recorded at the CafÃ Montmartre in Copenhagen, Denmark on November 23, 1962. This concert is nearly all he recorded from 1962 to 1966, a period when he made a stylistic breakthrough with his trio featuring alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons and drummer Sunny Murray. The album consists of six tracks, four composed by Taylor and two standards: \"What's New\" and \"D Trad That's What\".
The album showcases Taylor's radical approach to improvisation, which was based on spontaneous interaction, collective expression, and emotional intensity. He created a musical language that was unique and original, drawing from various sources such as classical music, African rhythms, poetry, and dance. His piano playing was percussive, dissonant, and unpredictable, creating a contrast with Lyons' lyrical and melodic saxophone lines. Murray's drumming was equally revolutionary, abandoning the traditional role of keeping time and providing swing for a more free and expressive role that matched Taylor's energy and creativity.
The title track, \"Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come\", is a tribute to the ancient Egyptian queen and a symbol of beauty and power. The music reflects this theme with its dynamic range, dramatic shifts, and majestic atmosphere. The trio plays with a remarkable cohesion and communication, creating a musical dialogue that is both challenging and captivating. The track is also notable for being one of the first recordings to feature Albert Ayler, a legendary saxophonist who joined Taylor's group for a brief period in 1962.
Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come is widely regarded as one of the greatest live recordings in jazz history. It is a testament to Taylor's vision and innovation as well as his influence on generations of musicians who followed him. It is also a document of a pivotal moment in the evolution of jazz, when Taylor and his trio opened up new possibilities and directions for the music.
Taylor's influence on jazz and other genres of music was immense and far-reaching. He inspired and collaborated with many musicians who shared his vision of free expression, such as saxophonists Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, and Peter BrÃtzmann, trumpeters Don Cherry and Bill Dixon, drummers Milford Graves and Tony Oxley, and bassists William Parker and Barry Guy. He also influenced rock musicians such as Lou Reed, Patti Smith, and Thurston Moore, who admired his uncompromising attitude and artistic integrity.
Taylor was also a poet and often recited his poems before or during his performances. His poems were influenced by surrealism, African-American culture, and his own musical aesthetics. He used language as a musical material, creating rhythmic patterns, sonic textures, and expressive images with his words. Some of his poems were published in books such as Chinampas (1987) and Akosua (1998).
Taylor received many honors and awards for his contributions to music and culture. He was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1990, a MacArthur Fellow in 1991, a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 2000, and a Kyoto Prize laureate in 2014. He also received honorary doctorates from several universities, including Columbia University and New England Conservatory.
Taylor died on April 5, 2018, at the age of 89. He left behind a legacy of groundbreaking music that challenged the listeners and expanded the possibilities of jazz and beyond. He was a true innovator and a musical genius who never compromised his vision or his voice. aa16f39245