Cecil Taylor: Complete Candid Recordings (1960-1) Mosaic

UPDATE: March 1st, 2016 – Complete Mosaic Booklet added
taylor-neidinger-mosaic-box-1800-ljc-1.jpgSelection:

Jumpin’ Punkins (Take 4)

Jumpin’ Punkins (Take 6

 Artists:
Small ensemble: Archie Shepp (ts) Cecil Taylor (p) Buell Neidlinger (b) Denis Charles or Sonny Murray (d) Nat Hentoff (supervisor) Nola’s Penthouse Sound Studios, NYC, October 12, 1960.
Large ensemble: Clark Terry (t) Roswell Rudd (tmb) Steve Lacy (ss) Archie Shepp (ts) Charles Davis (bars) Cecil Taylor (p) Buell Neidlinger (b) Billy Higgins (d) Nat Hentoff (supervisor) recorded Nola’s Penthouse Sound Studios, NYC, January 10, 1961
Look at that line up: no passengers. The Candid label was very short-lived, and the Candid recordings are a rare slice of time. This collection catches Taylor at a very early stage of his evolution, surrounded with very heavyweight New York players.
Music
A bewildering collection of music, varying from the often quite difficult Taylor to bop fare with a twist. There is a twinge of masochism mounting this on the turntable but for me Taylor is a litmus test. Some people, whose judgement is impeccable in most things, tell me they are enraptured  by Taylor, others class him somewhere between root canal treatment and filing tax returns. Punishment for some, but not as challenging as some later Taylor for others.  Each time I play him, which I do from time to time, I am checking whether I have turned the corner, a zen moment, and finally “got” Cecil Taylor . So far he continues to elude me, but I keep trying.
The presence of Buell Neidlinger and Dennis Charles and the occasional  Archie Shepp ensures the proceedings keep one foot on the ground. Where the other foot is can be hard to locate.
Somewhere I read Taylor described  as the only jazz musician with “absolutely no groove whatsoever”. That is not an insult, but a measured thoughtful description. The bass and drums – instruments whose main purpose is to deliver the groove – seem to operate independently of Taylor’s direction of the moment, not “free” improvisation, but playing a different tune from Taylor, occasionally crossing each other’s path. In a lesser way, it’s an adaptation  I associate with Charlie Rouse, and how he coped with the melodic and harmonic eccentricity (genius) of Monk. One of you is a genius, but it takes a rare  talent to  play together.
Cover

The amazing box set cover photo, which first aroused my interest, is a still  from the short stint  by Taylor, Neidlinger, Shepp and Charles  as the on-stage musicians in Freddie Redd’s NY stage play The Connection, recruited to cover for Redd and Mclean while they were away making the Shirley Clarke  film version of The Connection, Enjoy the trailer here, Jackie Mclean “in the flesh”:

The cover has little to do with the music in the box set, however, as a photographic composition, yeah, the Rule of Thirds rules. Shepp looks seriously cool, as does Neidlinger, whilst Taylor  faces away from the audience, enigmatically, considering it is his box set.

Apparently they over-ran all the musical slots in the stage play and caused mayhem. Sister Salvation by Cecil Taylor? God, I’d love to hear it. It’s a shame no recordings appear to have been made of this line-up in The Connection.  I had always understood Tina Brooks understudied for McLean, the Howard McGhee alternative Connection is tops. (Some of Dexter Gordon’s west coast staging of The Connection appear on his Blue Note “Dexter Calling”).

Vinyl: MR6-127

Limited Edition 5,000 copies (OOP) my copy un-numbered (whoops!)

Not strictly “vintage” (this dated 1989), Mosaic box sets should be on every collectors wish list. Engineered by Bob d’Orleans, who I assume is the source of the squiggle in the runout at 2 o’clock, it sounds very acceptable – especially the stereo is probably another factor in favour of the Mosaic  (which was apparently re-mapped by the Mosaic engineers and differs from the original Candid mix) .

Taylor-Neidinger-mozaic-label-1000-LJC

Taylor-Neidinger-mozaic-12-sides1800-LJC

 

Collectors Corner

Any Mosaic vinyl box set you want is likely out of print, so, inevitably, prices are on the high side. Their most sought after box sets are the Miles Davis “Complete’s”, which run to thousands of dollars.  Taylor is an acquired taste so I was surprised by the premium prices it attracts. (Note the one aberrant bid at $700.A moment of madness? Money-laundering? These things happen)

Cecil Taylor Complete candid sp Capture

Taylor’s original Candids are a conundrum. They are both rare and inexpensive. Rare because not many people bought them at the time, and inexpensive because still not many people want to buy them today.

Taylor-2LPs

The box set however offers a completely different take – many takes. It is an interesting experience to be in the shoes of the recording engineer. False starts, alternate takes, the different way an improvisation develops, the mood and pace changes. How does Take 4 work better than Take 6?  You are thrown into the studio role, almost as a participant. I never thought I would say this but I am enjoying this set. I’ll leave you with the producers dilemma. Jumpin’ Punkins: Take 4, or Take 6?

Music is music, and words are words. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the right words to communicate about music. Pehaps that is why in Discogs so many record collectors obsess over historical recording details  but hardly anyone will write a  word in the review section about the music. Isn’t that what it’s all about, the music?   I recommend you try,  it is a cathartic and enriching experience.

However, be wary. There are some Cecil fans that don’t believe there are other legitimate points of view – .  My own sentiment is that Cecil is impenetrable,  “anti-music”. If the attributes normally associated with music appear:  melody, rhythm and harmony,  they are quickly extinguished. What’s left is unclassifiable. As one critic wrote: “Some people ask me, is Cecil Taylor “Jazz”? I say, wrong question. The right question is , is it music? “.

UPDATE March 1, 2016: The Complete Mosaic Booklet

It is seventeen pages long, the text should be readable, but I haven’t spent too long perfecting the geometry, it’s just as you might find it in real life turning the pages. WordPress is having some problem loading each of the pages, may need some correction when it has settled down on their servers.

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Booklet Ends]

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23 thoughts on “Cecil Taylor: Complete Candid Recordings (1960-1) Mosaic

  1. great you uploaded the booklet – few pages missing but look forward to the rest – thanks for doing that – was impossible to work out what from this set was from where without the booklet and helped me figure out I need to track this down now though saw there’s a reissue of this as Nat Hentoff Sessions with a few extra tracks – man they make this stuff confusing – anyway great site here – thanks for your big sleeve posts !!

    • Can be done, when I am back to base – travelling right now. I’ll add to my to-do list.

      Some Taylor fans seem overly sensitive. (Tony’s comment below). “Condescending and dismissive” ? I think I’ve been quite supportive, and I don’t have any Oscar Peterson albums.

      One jazz critic said of Taylor, “people ask – is it jazz? Wrong question. The right question is – is it music?”

      That’s what I call dismissive, though in an artful way.

    • these booklets get lost very easily, but sometimes they pop up only after a couple of years.
      I wrote to Mosaic and asked for a “lost” booklet. They supplied me one for $ 20 (excl. shipment fee). It is worth it since a box without the booklet is much less attractive.
      In the process i have now double booklets (Miles Davis boxes), but not your Cecil Taylor.

  2. Read your condescending and dismissive remarks about Cecil Taylor with disbelief and displeasure. If you think the Candid material is difficult, your listening must run within very gentle limits. The albums contained in the Mosaic box are hardly radical, and there is a really interesting blend of in and out. Yes, Cecil has done more difficult work (which is great stuff), but this is not it. I’ll tell you what: to relieve you of the burden I will happily take the Mosaic box off your hands and allow you to make room for your Oscar Peterson albums. Deal?

    • I feel that any attempt to pigeonhole Cecil Taylor and Oscar Peterson as irreconcilable extremes only proves that one has understood neither of the two. Each of them, in their own way, incorporates the essence of jazz in a way Duke Ellington might have called “beyond category”.

  3. This is a nice find, LJC, and a somewhat adventurous purchase. I presume it must include NEW YORK CITY R&B, a great Taylor/Neidlinger collaboration. I have that but not this box set. I’m always a little shocked at how little I listen to sets of anything — one of the reasons I no longer have any of the gigantic complete Miles box sets (Bitches Brew sessions, In A Silent Way etc etc), and won’t be buying Coltrane’s SUN SHIP SESSIONS on Mosaic. I’m sure they will be an improvement on there dog’s breakfast that was the original mix, but I’m damned sure I would never listen to all five records more than once and possibly not even once. More is sometimes – and quite often – less.

    Gigantism is one of the problems I have with many (indeed, most) new jazz records – even by artists I adore. The most recent Stanko album is a double CD; those prior clocked in at well over seventy minutes. After twenty minutes I have had had enough – and yet, I haven’t played a nicely rounded side – I’m barely a third into the thing… I find it all immensely discouraging and end up simply not bothering. Not having a CD player currently of course doesn’t help either…

  4. LJC: do you listen to the complete box in one sitting? With such collections, I like to listen to complete studio sessions, but not complete boxes.

    I got about halfway through the complete “On the Corner” sessions on The Evil Silver Disc before I had to take a break and do something else.

    • There has to be some element of coherence in the length of the listening session, a live concert or recording session. I see the Miles Complete Plugged Nickel Box set consist of eight CDs – must be eight hours? Indigestible for one sitting.

      • that’s right: I don’t think that eating lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and tea?) is the best way to like it. in front of multiple records boxes, even of the best musician in his best years, I never succeed in reaching the end in one sitting. as Rudolf wrote some time ago it’s always boring, especially if you have to listen to different takes of the same song. the interest may lie in musicians or students, more than in simple listeners. I’ve different boxes and often never listened to them all. when I take a look at my collection, I’m seldom captured by one of them.

  5. Taylor’s music is difficult, it took me years to get into it. I’ve a couple of his Candid LPs but this Mosaic set is the way to go for the music. Cecil T is a genius.

  6. Those Miles Davis Complete Columbia vinyl Mosaics are to die for ! Great booklets full of rare session photos – and excellent sonics.

  7. Blimey! I’m surprised by the two recordings of this track, both with a strange archaic feel to the playing- not what I would expect to hear from Cecil Taylor at all.

    Your last paragraph resonates with something that I’ve been thinking about recently. It is very difficult to write about music, especially if the purpose is to try to capture the feeling of the piece without resorting to a potentially sterile technical description (which would rapidly exhaust my patience, attention span and limited knowledge of musicianship). However, it is helpful to introduce selections, as you do, and open them up for your readership to listen to and comment on. As ever, I look forward to seeing where this post takes us.

    • I’m confident the Ellington original is known to most jazz lovers:

      How does it compare to Cecil Taylor’s version?

      • no way: Duke had found his place in composing, directing and playing his music, since the 20’s, he was a master in choosing his musicians. Taylor, as other Free musicians in the beginning of their careers, tried to change a well established Jazz in different ways. in order to reach their new expression most of the early work of Free musicians is ingenuous, sometimes unlistenable. two exceptions: Ornette and Trane. their beginnings were immediately fresh, although not separate from the tradition. this is obvious for Trane, who was already on the scene. Ornette instead came out from nowhere before. he is the true originator, immediately interesting. Trane arrived much later, in 1965. Taylor chose an unknown tenor, Shepp, and an ex-traditionalist, Lacy for these sides. while I really love Shepp’s later works, I do not find any interest here.

        • Thanks, Dottore, for using the exact words I was hoping to elicit from a conoisseur who would stumble upon my post. The way Barney Bigard’s clarinet seems to hover above that great Jimmy Blanton bass line – it’s eerie, isn’t it? And to create a rhythm like that with a drummer (Sonny Greer) who did not build upon the techniques that had become standard in 1941 but had developed an unorthodox style of his own – simply because he was born in 1895, three years even before Johnny Dodds!! It’s both archaic and avant-garde, just like Duke’s piano playing (see “Money Jungle” here in this blog).

            • most of us, and me among ’em, are captured by 50’s and 60’s Jazz and tend to neglect what came before. Scott LaFaro and Paul Chambers are universally acknowledged: their HERO was Jimmy Blanton…..
              so we (I) know most of Scott and Paul but little about Jimmy.
              true that I don’t know a “rare” Jimmy Blanton, as I know ALL the rare LaFaro’s and Chambers’. but: is this the only reason to neglect all pre-Bop jazz?

              • Most of what Jimmy Blanton recorded was done with Duke Ellington, to my knowledge. And it was all done in the two years prior to his death (1941). Consequently, there seems to be little or no material that might be called a “rare” Jimmy Blanton – except, perhaps, four sides recorded with The Jeter-Pillars Orchestra in 1937. All the Ellington material has been re-issued extensively, but I am not an expert on the original 78 RPM issues on RCA Victor. There is a beautiful website that lists them all, including “Jumpin’ Punkins”:
                http://ellingtonweb.ca/Hostedpages/DoojiCollection/DoojiCollection-1941-42.html

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