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Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton, at the Royal Festival Hall

Posted July 9, 2007

Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton

Cecil Taylor & Anthony Braxton, at the Royal Festival Hall, 8/7/07 » Cecil Taylor (piano); Anthony Braxton (soprano, sopranino, alto saxes; contrabass-clarinet); William Parker (bass); Tony Oxley (drums) «

My first visit to the newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall, this Sunday… A bit of a hash-up with the seating, after a ‘raised stage’ that hadn’t been put down again left everyone in the front two rows scattered across the remaining front fifteen, just to give us a chance to see… Would also have been nice if it hadn’t taken until the eighth steward to find out what was going on… But at least it’s not a double-booking, and at least they made up for it by springing on a surprise (to me!) Polar Bear support act… Not quite as cool as at Taylor John’s, but only through a lack of intimacy; a capable, restrained, half hour set, making their upcoming CD even more tantalising…

A quick break, enjoying the hall’s nice new palatial bars and Thames-overlooking balconies (but not the lack of toilets!), then back in, not quite knowing what to expect… Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton had been double-billed at the RFH before, but Braxton in a Ghost Trance quintet, and Taylor, separate, in a trio with Bill Dixon and Tony Oxley. Braxton had stolen the night, while Taylor’s presence had seemed fraught, to say the least.

But! Here he was!! Disembodied, at first, off-stage, reading some poetry that I couldn’t begin to understand, while Oxley walked solemnly to his kit. Then Taylor appeared, dancing onto stage to meet the waiting drummer, finishing with a pirouette and a bow onto the piano stool — a sign of contentment, or a sarcastic ‘fuck-you’ to the paparazzo, jumping up to stick a camera lens in his face?… It seemed slightly ominous… But then the music came: nimble foraging, picking at the keys, flurries and delicate atonal crashes, beating off Oxley’s wide ranging patted-out percussion (where do they breed cows that big?). The pair feeding in and out of each other, but heavily interplay through confrontation, it seemed… Three tunes: exquisite melodic fragments, drawn out of a small moleskinne on the piano-top and then battered with the shit kicked-out on the keys. Maybe just a little bit samey, a bit like he was just beginning to go through the motions… I’m not sure, my hearing was duff on the night, and I found it a bit tricky to lock in… Beautiful, none-the-less…!

After that, the pair disappeared; William Parker took the stage for an impressive classically Down bass solo, a lot of it arco and massively impressive. Then, they all re-emerged, this time with Braxton finally in tow… A brooding, rattling, percussive start, with Braxton squeezing on contrabass-clarinet… They moved around, the inimitable Taylor lines began to break through… Braxton, investigative, trying to decide quite what to try. As he moved to different horns—soprano, sopranino and alto saxes—his style shifted through the modes, not necessarily making anything canonically ‘Braxton’. Abstract flurries then, on alto, more-like smashed melodies. Taylor’s attention seemed always on him, batting out the shapes and apparently transfixed by the prospect of what was to come… At times the group moved into definite free-jazz territory, with the almost-melodies just prised out… But then it would move into more of a noise territory; delicate noise, aggressive but easy. As for the rest of the band, Parker started off quite muted, but moved toward some great grooving lines nearer the end… Impressive, always, and a great propulsive sound. Oxley looked like his was having great fun throughout, pausing now and then to reflect on the concentrated music around him…

It burned out as a great success, I thought… When taking the applause, Braxton and Taylor seemed fairly decently elated by the whole experience… My description of the great music they made is probably well far off the mark… Was listening to Parker’s Now! Other Directions in music… record this afternoon and was thinking, well, if you take this, add some Cecil Taylor, then… you’ll get something that isn’t even close… Wordsandmusic has a better description; mapsadaisical does too (plus a nice photo that is approximately three-thousand times better than mine)… The whole thing was recorded for Jazz on 3, broadcast this Friday 13th… See my earlier post for lots of suitable links :)

3 Responses to “Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton, at the Royal Festival Hall”

GravatarBrian said:

#1 (on 10/2/2007 at 8:50 pm )

This is a nice posting – I wasn’t there but you convey things nicely from the point of view of the way you experienced things – jazz will (should) always be a highly subjective audience experience. Now I’m hoping you write up the Coleman 4tet concert of the night after, to see how we con/di-verge.

GravatarBilly said:

#2 (on 16/2/2008 at 3:50 pm )

Yeah it was absolutely wonderful. Does anyone know here I can hear the audio of if it was filmed? thanks

GravatarCecil Taylor Quartet featuring Anthony Braxton, supported by Polar Bear, Royal Festival Hall, 8 July 2007 – Ian Louis Harris said:

#3 (on 14/2/2016 at 9:24 am )

[…] absolutely at its peak – can’t help you there – we really couldn’t tell. A Jazz Geek describes it here. A detailed piece from All About Jazz explains how historic and excellent (lente?) it all […]