Enter, Evening (Soft Line Structure)
Enter, Evening (Alt. Take)
Unit Structure / As of a Now / Section
Tales (8 Whisps)
Cecil Taylor, the defining pianistic voice of the jazz avant-garde and one of its most far-sighted bandleaders, made two albums for Blue Note, Unit Structures and Conquistador!, during the course of 1966, both with similar lineups. He had emerged in the mid-’50s, rooted in the swinging language of Ellington, Monk, and Horace Silver but clearly heading toward his own groundbreaking approach. By the time of Unit Structures, he had broken free of straight rhythm and conventional band interplay toward a dense, dissonant, abstract sound articulated by two basses (Alan Silva and Henry Grimes), three horns (trumpeter Eddie Gale, saxophonists Jimmy Lyons and Ken McIntrye), and drums (Andrew Cyrille).
Unit Structures was, in fact, Taylor’s name for a compositional method, as the authors Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux have explained: “Rather than compose a single theme to spur improvised variations, Taylor constructed his works out of modules, or units; the group worked through each unit in sequence.” But the aura of Taylor’s music is perhaps better grasped through the words of the composer himself, from his extensive liner note essay: “The paths of harmonic and melodic light, give architecture sound structures acts creating flight. Each instrument has strata. Physiognomy, inherent matter-calling-stretched into sound (Layers) in rhythms regular and irregular measuring coexisting bodies of sound.”
After the full-tilt intensity of “Steps,” the album slips into a more contemporary classical space with “Enter, Evening (Soft Line Structure),” punctuated with bells and McIntyre’s sinuous oboe. The longest piece, “Unit Structure/As of a Now/Section,” in which McIntyre expands the sonic spectrum again with fierce bass clarinet, yields to the one piece without horns, “Tales (8 Whisps),” elucidated by Taylor as follows: “Whisps are intersections uniting uninterrupted game continuum. Rotating axis of three interval structures. Pebbles lay at bottom to stain fences already fastened in dirt.”