Jazz Advance

Artist: Cecil Taylor

Year: 1956

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz

Grade: A

Cecil Taylor’s piano runs are a thing of wonder, astonishing in how he conjures up a world of sound — so much sound — in such a short space. One moment its bebop, the next it’s pure atonal expressionism, then back to straight jazz before throwing in some tone clusters for good measure. His music contains more surprises in one measure than most jazzmen can muster in an entire career.

Jazz Advance opens with a cover of “Bemsha Swing” even more warped than Thelonious Monk‘s idiosyncratic original. Improvisation had never been so, well, improvised. The nine-minute solo showcase  “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” (originally a 1943 Cole Porter tune) is an avant-garde showstopper that displays Taylor’s otherworldly talent. In the end, it sounds more like modern classical than modern jazz.

But the most unforgettable moment is the breakneck “Rick Kick Shaw,” in which Taylor’s fast-paced intensity is matched by Denis Charles’ rollicking percussion. Together, they coalesce into a single unit structure, unmoored and un-human.

Jazz Advance is one of the greatest jazz debuts of all time. It’s certainly the most daring. Taylor was already molding the shape of jazz to come before the words “free jazz” even entered Ornette Coleman’s lexicon. This 1956 LP is a wonder of invention — adventurous songcraft that rewrites the rulebook while kicking convention in the balls.

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