March-19th-2004, 09:33 PM
Cecil Taylor - Owner of the River Bank
On Tuesday, the same day that Blue Note is releasing the RVG edition of Conquistador, Enja is putting out this set of Cecil with the Italian Instabile Orchestra. I just ordered it off Amazon.com. Will post a review once it arrives.
March-24th-2004, 02:28 PM
Two questions come to mind as I contemplate my first listening of "The Owner of the Riverbank." The first is, what does one do when no less than three, yes, three, Cecil Taylor cds all arrive on one's doorstep on the same day? I ordered "It is in the Brewing Luminous" from DMG's Hat sale, then I also received the above mentioned title as well as the RVG Remaster of Conquistador! Since I decided to listen to The Owner of the Riverbank first, that leads me to my second question. What does one write about a Cecil Taylor disc after the first listen?
First, some initial impressions: This is a beautiful record. (It's a live recording from September, 2000.) I have never heard the Italian Instabile Orchestra, but I really liked the nuance in their playing, the way they responded to Cecil's playing, and the kaleidoscope of sounds they created with their instruments. They almost reminded me a little bit of Sun Ra's Arkestra. Another impression: Although there are moments of great fury on here, this is among the quieter Taylor records that I have heard.
What I come back to with this disc is the title. What does it refer to? I don't know the answer to that question, but the first thing that came to mind for me was slavery, and how the river symbolized so much for the slaves: For many, it may have been what carried them to the African coast where they were sold. For slaves in America, the river symbolized separation from kin (slave families were often broken up, particularly in the 19th century, when one of the family members was sold "down the river" to the cotton plantations in Alabama, Mississippi, etc.) But it could also symbolize freedom. Many escaped slaves found their way north by traveling up the river (perhaps the Mississippi, or the Ohio) on a raft, under the cover of darkness. In this context, the "owner of the river bank" would be a figure of great power, a sentinel for the oppressors, someone to be bribed, avoided, and feared.
Like so many of Taylor's recordings, this composition feels like a passage to me, like the journey undertaken by the dead of ancient Egypt, through the labyrinths of hell in the darkness of night, only to reemerge as the rising sun with the break of daylight. The piece begins quietly, and it ends quietly. In a long middle section there is a period of great intensity. The Orchestra's drums create the sensation of rolling thunder, impending doom, like the martial footsteps of pursuers after the pursued. Then it becomes quiet again. The phrasings of the orchestra are reminiscent of wooden docks creaking in the water, punctuated by the quiet, yet anxious, playing of the piano. Another thought: Of all the Taylor records that I own, the voicings on this one are used with the greatest effect, in my opinion. Toward the end of the piece, it sounds like whispering; then the bass begins playing softly, the horns and piano come in, and then fade away, as if the music is being carried off by the currents of the water. And the piece ends.
March-24th-2004, 02:31 PM
off topiuc a bit, but do yourself a favor and pick up the Italian Instabile album Litania Sibilante asap.
I just received Brewing Luminous last weekend and was extremely impressed. Cecil and Jimmy Lyons are both on fire. The remaster of Conquistador is high on my list of discs to pick up soon. I'm looking forward to reading your reactions to both.
March-24th-2004, 02:41 PM
Plus ça change...
Thanks for that review, Crawjo.
April-8th-2004, 05:50 PM
Listening to this for the first time right now (after a couple of interrupted attempts). Cecil's in awesome form, alternating between the highly percussive cluster barrages and some somewhat more lyrical moments. Instabile sounds great, but...they just don't sound too Instabile-y. I mean, mfers can play no doubt, but I note less of the humor and the seemingly out of control wilditude that is so typical of the gang. They're still badasses, though, just not what I was expecting. I'm only about half way through, so we'll see.
April-8th-2004, 08:48 PM
Reevaluating @ 500k
I've heard that about this project. I guess I'm not surprised. I love Cecil, but I wouldn't call his music a laugh a minute--except, perhaps, for the unintentional (I assume) humor of his poetry and other extra-musical performance shtick.
Originally Posted by Sergio Zamora
Last edited by Pete C; April-8th-2004 at 08:50 PM.
April-9th-2004, 12:32 AM
the cantilena of speech
Oh c'mon, I can't imagine a guy stepping onstage in tie-dyed leotards gabbling & squawking (as he did last time I saw him) is doing it with an entirely straight face.
April-12th-2004, 07:13 PM
Having heard a boot of this concert I'm in agreement with Sergio; the IIO is almost totally anonymous in this one. Kind of reminds me of how mainstream MM and Bennink sounded backing up Dolphy, although their musical personalities weren't nearly as developed back then.
April-13th-2004, 04:07 PM
cool man, i'm always glad to read what you have to say about cecil. conquistador has rapidly become one of my favorite CT albums.
now if they'd just do something about the sound on unit structures....
April-13th-2004, 04:24 PM
Still, I think Misha was, or at least sounded, more like his later self than did Bennink, but maybe that's because he had some solo space and Han *was* filling in the traditional timekeeper role.
Originally Posted by Captain Hate
(Not having heard the disc or the boot but bored and looking to join in).
April-27th-2004, 04:30 AM
Originally Posted by Captain Hate
Where did that happen, Cap?
April-27th-2004, 04:42 AM
Originally Posted by Squaredancecalling Steve
Eric Dolphy - "Last Date" (1964)
April-27th-2004, 11:06 AM
Thanks. I see this was made a couple of months after the Paris Concert with Mingus.
April-29th-2004, 07:16 AM
I posted this on my music blog, hope it isn't too much of a "state the obvious" kind of review...
Owner of the River Bank is a collaboration between the renowned avant-garde composer and pianist Cecil Taylor and the Italian Instable Orchestra, recorded in 2000. It’s interesting to hear Taylor, who can often summon orchestral music just playing solo to meet with this large group. It’s a very successful meeting. The music is in one continuous suite with track numbers inserted into the disc.
Part One starts off slowly, almost like the musicians are tuning up, the orchestra and the star are feeling each other out – probing, looking for their bearings and direction. Things start to come together with Part Two where the music slowly builds in intensity as the horns square off against Taylor’s dark chords. Things build to hurricane force intensity led by a trumpet solo over full orchestra. The music drops back down to a simmer (the dynamics constantly shift over the course of the suite) as Taylor lays out and allows the horns to speak. Thunderheads build again late in the section, as the horns testify over Taylor’s piano onslaught.
Part Three ushers in a quieter, almost symphonic section. Horns begin to up the ante behind Taylor’s cascading piano. The music becomes faster paced and takes on a nervous feel… a roller coaster thrill ride, with the thunderous drums really rolling. At this point the music really does seem to take on the personification of a river – rolling along in an unending stream where the same face is never presented to you twice. Part Four is a shimmering piano solo, where Taylor gradually builds momentum. This builds into Part Five where Taylor continues to pick out notes to improvise on and the band kicks in following his lead. Chanted voices chime in during what almost seems like an incantation with the voices, horns and piano all reaching. The music waxes and wanes through loud and soft passages. Voices return adding a spooky sound to the proceedings. This part ends with a round of intense collective improvisation, led by Taylor’s fleet fingered chords.
Part Six begins with a milder Taylor solo, accompanied by trumpet. A somewhat ominous and quiet section follows almost like seeing a storm brewing in the distance. Things start to pick up in intensity and drums thunder and horns flash as Taylor supports and encourages it all. The Seventh and final section is by far the quietest of them all coming like peace following a great tumult. The record isn’t all over the top playing; in fact much of the music is admirable in its restraint. This is an excellent meeting of the minds.
July-13th-2004, 09:39 PM
Plus ça change...
Finally heard this today. Didn't do too much for me: the sound is pretty tough too.
Anwhow, FWIW, I *MUCH* prefer "Algonquin."
July-14th-2004, 06:49 AM
Nonetheless, 'Last Date' is a tremendous record. It's always been my favorite Dolphy as a leader.
Originally Posted by gnhrtg
July-14th-2004, 02:56 PM
In listening TOOTRB the 1st time, I've felt a kind of 'underskinny' (neologism? )tension, something that I've felt only once, in listening to Coltrane's "Olatunji Concert"(even if in a different way). I haven't many many records of Taylor (this was the first one, rapidly folowed by Unit Structures and Conquistador.....). For what I understood, when Taylor plays with a large ensemble, the most important thing for him is to create tension between the personality of the musicians and try to destabilize the roles. This process begin with the rehearsals (as you can read in the sleevenotes), in which he try to force the musicians to understand what he want, instead of teaching it to them, and to listen what musicians can make. It's a kind of continuous "here and now", in which a solo could be interrupted by Taylor or some other musician, for example; the goal is to see in which way the (others) musician(s) will answer(s).... so the final result could not be a masterpiece..... I think that what is more important for Taylor is to force himself and the other players to redifine continually theirselves. It's a kind of 'tour de force', more than an interplay. That's the reason for my interest in Taylor music, is an idea and a practice that I never heard before. Maybe there are other records more succesful than this, so I'll wait for a list
July-14th-2004, 03:01 PM
swing high swing higher
don't have this - but Alms/Tiergarten is a large ensemble that is just phenomenal - and the personalities of the other musicians come through
and the IIO is amng my favorite large bands - but from the comments - seems like I might be dissapointed
July-14th-2004, 08:14 PM
I gots ta get that joint.
Originally Posted by walto
July-14th-2004, 09:58 PM
I'm with Walter. I don;t get a whole lot out of this collaboration with IIO. Though Cecil hasn't recorded with many large ensembles, I prefer Winged Serpents (Black Saint), Alms Tiergarten (FMP), and the collaboration with Jazz Composers Orchestra (JCOA). They're supposed to be issuing a set(s) from his 75th Birthday Big Band from Iridium this year. Based on the sets that I heard and the sound quality in the room, it should be excellent.
July-15th-2004, 05:54 AM
Plus ça change...
Yes, I prefer all those big group recordings that Frisco mentioned to Riverbank too. Also that one with the youth group from the FMP set (Legba Crossing).
I'll look forward to that birthday recording.
July-15th-2004, 10:37 AM
swing high swing higher
what about "Melancholy"
this one has always mystified me
July-15th-2004, 03:45 PM
Plus ça change...
That one was another big disappointment for me, Steve.