When I started out recording in the late 60s, my goal was to make hip and popular music. You know, like The Beatles. Since things rarely turn out the way one hopes, I spent most of my recording experience in jazz, particular avant-garde jazz. While it’s music that reminds many of heavy traffic mixed with fingernails on a blackboard, for me it provided a thrilling window on expansive thinking. These were experiences that made sure I’d work hard to never be complacent. There’s no trade I’d rather have for those times.
Almost 40 years after the fact, it’s hard for me to imagine I was lucky enough to work with one of the great, world class talents like pianist/composer Cecil Taylor, who, along with John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, was a leading figure in the resetting of jazz expectations for over 50 years. Especially considering that I was 22 years old. But often, cutting edge artists on the fringes of mainstream culture like Taylor don’t always command the attention of the leading recording institutions, and it’s the young, passionate fans (like I was) that can fill the breach.
Cecil’s (temporary) manager enlisted me to record and “produce” only since I could access some premium tape decks and microphones, and because I’d work tirelessly for his music. We recorded the "Return Concert" in November 1973 at The Town Hall in New York, and later in the winter traveled to Washington D.C. and crashed in a friend’s place to record a show at the Smithsonian. I spent months pouring over the tapes prepping them for release on Cecil’s own label, Unit Core Records (only the Town Hall show was released, as Spring of Two Blue J’s).
I still have to pinch myself about my brief association with an artist like Cecil Taylor at one of the great peaks of his career.
You can listen to the entire album here (and bonus tracks here), and there are some of the stories of the recording too. Cecil’s not an easy listen, but if you’re up for it there are a lot of rewards.0 comments Tagged: producingrecords, jazz, composer, 1973,.