Cecil Taylor – Unit Structures

Unit Structures

Cecil TaylorUnit Structures Blue Note BST 84237 (1966)

Cecil Taylor brought a composer’s sense to improvised music. His percussive use of the entire piano keyboard was unlike anyone else’s. His harmonic sense was also unique. Not to mention that his “unit structures” were tiny fragments built up by his combo in improvised songs. The “superstar” group rehearsed Unit Structures extensively before recording it for Blue Note, which distinguishes the music from strictly spontaneous “free jazz”. The resulting album is essential listening. It is useful as a benchmark to have a familiarity with someone like serialist composer Anton Webern to appreciate (by comparison and contrast) how the composing/improvising linkage in Cecil Taylor’s intense, atonal music operates — another useful reference is the chapter on Taylor in Ekkehard Jost‘s book Free Jazz. A true high point in 1960s music, Unit Structures has integrity and honesty at all times while still remaining utterly fascinating.