Cecil Taylor Quintet “Lifting the Bandstand”

There’s been a handful of fantastic live recordings featuring the late, great Cecil Taylor come out in the past year or so. Multiple duos with Tony Oxley have definitely shined bright, but this quintet recording from 1998 is a blazing tower. Taylor’s playing style is instantly recognizable. Literally nobody else sounds like him. As he continued honing his approach to playing throughout his life, Taylor mined totally uncharted zones. His music became more and more personal – sometimes intensely so – and this European quintet recording exemplifies that.

Featuring one long piece (over an hour) broken into two (still long) parts, Lifting the Bandstand demands attention. Taylor is joined by Harri Sjöströ on soprano sax, Tristan Honsinger on cello, Teppo Hauta-Aho on double bass, and Paul Lovens on percussion. All four offer excellent support, but I can’t help but keep my focus on Taylor. Vague patterns emerge from various passages, showing somewhat of an anchor these free-flowing ideas emanate from without being tethered or predictable. His playing is increasingly intricate, notes like shards of glass picked up off a floor full of clanging detritus from Lovens. In fact, Lovens is such a great match that often the percussion sounds like an odd, distant echo of Taylor’s scattershot. During calmer sections, I’m intrigued by Honsinger’s cello interactions with the more minimal, contemplative moods. There’s so much in the space of an hour that it’s overwhelming in the best way.

Look, Cecil Taylor needs no introduction, but there’s a beauty to all these smaller editions of various live/one-off/etc performances showing up lately. These are moments in time that deserve to be documented and shared and with Lifting the Bandstand, you’ll find one hell of a sonic forest to get lost in.