Jazz: The older they come, the harder they play
CECIL TAYLOR/ MAX ROACH BARBICAN HALL LONDON
Wednesday 27 January 1999
Max Roach couldn't. Without doubt the all-time greatest innovator on drums, Roach played in Charlie Parker's modern jazz laboratory (with Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and the like), and has also proved himself a tidy and intelligent solution to the problems of jazz's increasing fragmentation into freedom, whenever one has been needed. He opened the first set with a witty and warm-hearted waltz rooted around a pattern on bass-drum and hi-hat. It sounded like a soundtrack awaiting its silent movie, and endorsed the cliche about Roach. Most 75-year-olds are content to celebrate the fact that they possess all four limbs, never mind using them independently to create this kind of polyrhythmic chicanery.
And then Taylor came on stage... or the sound of him did. He began his performance offstage, reading his free-associative poetry into a microphone while the audience stared at the grand piano, the drum kit... and each other. When he appeared, he continued to recite, accompanying the text with what looked like a hybrid of voguing and classical ballet. Where the satire ends and the serious business of creation begins is never clear with Taylor, unless you're prepared to close your eyes.
For when he did finally sit at the piano, he could still have been sending up the creative process if the music hadn't been so subtle and sublime. Taylor plucks notes like ripe cherries. Gnome-like, he crouches close to the keys and rattles around in fitful bursts, moving between ferocious, two-fisted crescendos and delicate, exotic counterpoint.
The second set featured both musicians working together in a partnership that has delighted avant-garde jazz fans since their first collaboration in 1979. For the first 15 minutes, Roach seemed mostly to be responding to Taylor's lead - understandable considering the charismatic force of this diminutive giant - but a rare kind of organic growth quickly liberated the music. Whether Taylor, Roach, or anyone in the audience knew exactly what was being said, is debatable - but a language was certainly being spoken.
Occasionally, older jazz musicians get standing ovations for merely being alive (no mean feat in this business). Taylor and Roach got theirs for making some of the most provocative and rousing music the Barbican Hall has heard in ages.
Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigourfilm
Bannatyne leaves Dragon's DenTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
- 2 Question Time's 'passionate highlander' is the William Wallace of the Better Together campaign
- 3 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
- 4 Tony Abbott embarrasses Australia by praising Japanese WWII military, ‘getting on the sake’ and posing for ‘crotch-shot’ photo opportunity
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories