Uncompromising and endlessly controversial, Cecil Taylor's percussive, intellectual approach to jazz composition, improvisation and piano remain largely outside the mainstream after more than 40 years. A classically trained pianist prior to discovering the music of Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, and Horace Silver, Taylor soon developed a percussive, clustered, impressionistic style that, while taking Monk as a harmonic starting point, charts a course straight for the stratosphere. Indeed, Taylor frequently seems to have dispensed with both melody and form, yet he's brilliant at conveying a broad complex of emotions, from introspection to tenderness to rage.
Unit Structures, through its use of two bassists (Henry Grimes and Alan Silva) and the two-reed front of Ken McIntyre and Taylor-mainstay Jimmy Lyons, suggests a "double band." Yet such structures become almost meaningless in Taylor's world: it is all about energy and exploration. Punctuated by percussive bursts and melodic eruptions, Unit Structures is, despite its title, impressionistic and whimsical, although devoid of all standard structures and romance. Instead, Taylor pushes his band to explore the limits of improvisation where nothing--neither form, nor melody, nor structure--is a given. Still challenging listening after nearly four decades. --Fred Goodman