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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
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Unit Structures really has to be understood as a series of compositions. Unlike much of the New York avant-garde music of the 60's, this really isn't "free" jazz. Taylor's music is always highly controlled...just listen to how his piano "directs" the soloists and the rhythm section. His is not a cacophonous art, despite it's surface. Many of the works are based on predetermined modal scales, improvisations based on precomposed motives and themes, and obssessive development of tiny rhythmic cells. In many ways, Taylor shows influences of the European avant-garde (or influence on the European avant-garde) and yet the music always has a sense of it's jazz, blues and African roots. As such, I think Taylor may have been the most influential jazz composer of the 60's...paving the way for the experiements of Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill and other structuralists of the late 20th century avant-garde in jazz.
I think many others have hit on the way to listen to this music. Don't try to figure it out right away. Let the waves of sound wash over you first. As you listen more and more, the sense and structure of this music becomes more clear. This is music that can engage the head, but engages the heart first. It is almost shamanic music.
About the music, this features one of the best groups Taylor ever led. Drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassists Henry Grimes and Alan Silva
and altoist Jimmy Lyons were "regular" (if that can be said about guys who rarely had the chance to perform in public)band members of taylors various groups over the years. Added to this nucleus was multi-reedist McIntyre and trumpeter Eddie Gale Stevens. Especially the former is crucial to the overall sound of the album. The basses were used in a very cool way:Grimes kept the pulse going, functioning as a "traditonal" bass while Silva was "freer" and played with a bow, often in a very high register, commenting on the soloists various movements.
The first song "Steps" features McIntyre on alto (Stevens does not play on this song). It starts with a very complicated stop-start theme before an almost boogie-woogieish piano line introduces a screaming, intense McIntyre solo. The energy level is VERY high with Taylor variously playing/changing patterns and improvising along with the soloists. The greatest part of the song is Taylors solo which starts as a piano-drums duet before kicking into overdrive with the basses joining in. Awesome!!!Read more ›
I have only given the recording four stars because this session is definitely in dire need of remastering. For such classic and incredibly executed music, it is unfortunate that the sound of this Blue Note CD is fairly muddy and lacking in color. It is almost maddening to hear Taylor's piano sound as though it is underwater. The drums sound dull and Silva's incredible bass playing lacks clarity on this CD. Try to find an original LP copy of this session, because it will sound much better than this CD, which is a poor representation of the session.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
_The_ Classic Album of Cecil Taylor! This one is still a favorite of mine.Published 2 months ago by Zachary Storer
I love Jazz; this is noise and not the good kind either. I love Coltrane, Albert Alyer, Archie Shepp and Andrew Hill just to name 4 of the New Thing. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Uncle John 5oh
The music is typical New Thing from the sixties. High energy playing, but somehow chaotic and lacking a melody or strong harmonic structures. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Pierre Taminiaux
While reading a book by August Kleinzahler, he mentioned Cecil Taylor. I had heard of him, but never did anything about it till now. What an improv. Read morePublished on December 21, 2012 by Shale
I can't really say what it is about this (and Conquistador), but they are absolutely addictive, I just can't stop listening to them!Published on June 24, 2012 by Lisa
This is the companion to Cecil Taylor's Conquistador. Unit Structures works in the same format, but without the great Eddie Gale on trumpet. Read morePublished on December 19, 2009 by Bill Your 'Free Form FM Print DJ
This record is one of the seminal recordings in Jazz and perhaps one of the most interesting developments in music as a whole. Read morePublished on May 11, 2009 by Michael L. Lewis
Cecil Taylor is one of those pianists that is so stubborn and consumed with himself that he just can't make good music much like when Coltrane went off the deep end, but only... Read morePublished on December 11, 2008 by Transfigured Knight