In theater, the audience and the actors famously form an unwritten pact of confidence. The show won’t succeed if the ones in the seats fail to believe that the ones on the scene are in reality not what they appear to be during the performance. This applies to concerts based on collective improvisation as well. If the musicians are not convincing enough, the illusion of the moment evaporates causing the audience to lose faith in the act.
When a true champion of free music leads his troops on the stage, credibility is not an issue. The delivery is assertive, proven and steadfast. This was the case in 1998 as headstrong pianist Cecil Taylor (1929–2018) appeared on the Tampere Jazz Happening stage with his European Quintet. For two Finns, saxophonist Harri Sjöström and bassist Teppo Hauta-aho, the occasion was momentous. After collaborating with Taylor on and off for close to a decade on the Continent they would now play in front of the home crowd with a living legend of free jazz.
Cecil Taylor was, of course, one of the originators of the movement. Along with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, he was responsible for dragging jazz out of the 1950s and into the future with his fiery appearances at the Five Spot Café in New York City. And here he sat at the grand piano now, four decades later, flanked by two Finns and drummer Paul Lovens and cellist Tristan Honsinger. With many lifetimes worth of experience in differing formations between them, the four European stalwarts of free music were the perfect match for Taylor’s mastery. What ensued was a remarkable journey through sound and vision. A recording by the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation Yle allows us to revisit that magic night.
CECIL TAYLOR QUINTET: Lifting the Bandstand
Cecil Taylor, piano
Harri Sjöström, soprano saxophone
Tristan Honsinger, cello
Teppo Hauta-Aho, double bass
Paul Lovens, drums
Fundacja Słuchaj, 2021