Oct. 6, 1966, Blue Note Records: RVG Edition 7243 5 90840 2 2
1. Conquistador 17: 51
2. With (Exit) 19:17
3. With (Exit) alt. take 17:21
A fascinating aspect of pianist Cecil Taylor’s playing is his extreme technical capabilities on the piano, and the resulting influence it has had on free jazz and non-idiomatic improvisation since the early days of his career. Yet, it is not hard to find critics of Taylor, those who call his music disorganized. Though it is clearly demonstrated on Taylor’s swing-like and/or traditional jazz colored recordings such as Jazz Advance and Looking Ahead, his recordings Unit Structures and the above mentioned Conquistador! too are definitive documents of his complete control and understanding of form and complex structure as much as any in his output then or now. Taylor has the ability to improvise harmonically organized, complex harmony at such high speeds and in such dense clusters that the uninitiated might hear such playing as random flurries of notes and dense, rapidly struck clusters of unorganized sound.
The lightening runs that begin the title track for example, reveal repetitions of the previous cadenza’s harmony while adding extra extemporized material. If this was mere ‘smashing and pounding’ of the keys one would not hear harmonic relations in the improvising that follows. A few judicious pauses of the record or CD player seconds later though reveal several repetitions of form and theme, and this manner of playing occurs through the piece. Due to this extraordinary ability of Taylor’s, one with lesser facility on the piano may see no other manner to recreate such forms than to randomly strike the piano keys as fast as possible, creating an effect similar to Taylor’s yet without the deep inner, structural logic; creating what might be called a lesser, more brute form of energy music.
But in the absence of a background such as Taylor’s extensive classical training (New England Conservatory of Music), and organizational genius, this may be the only logical evolution in the development of a pianist influenced by Taylor. It does reveal however a level of skill and maturity in execution and vision that those who revile freely improvised music wish or choose to ignore in his music. For whatever one calls it, it is clearly more than some kind of trick or effect. It is ‘difficult’…but it is music.