No Roads Are All Roads Lead To No Roads

Certain things you hear hit you and hurt you. I remember coming out of my punk rock phase into the arms of “Money Jungle” by Duke Ellington and being enthralled. What were these sounds? Who could make such noise and thunder with just a piano and bass and drums? Was there really rage after (for me) and before (for chronology’s sake) punk? How could one note on the piano express such beauty and such discontent?

The Duke has been with me ever since.

And so has his most detested label: jazz. But by the time I came to buy “Unit Structures” by Cecil Taylor I had (like most arrogant youths) a pretty good idea of what was and what wasn’t jazz. And what jazz wasn’t was Cecil Taylor. Muscular, sure. Full of rage, you bet. But to my well seasoned ears (I had been listening to hard-core punk since I was 11 and Duke Ellington since I was 15) Cecil just didn’t have the goods. So at the tender age of I6 gave up on Taylor and all the subsequent avant-jazz and became a mouldy fig.

At 18 I came back and tried with no results.

Same at 20.

Again at 22.

I kept coming back to “Unit Structures” and I kept getting rid of it. In fact, it is a record I have bought and sold 5 times.

Which brings me to the moment where a sound hits you and hurts. The next time I came back to Cecil I decided to skip “Unit Structures” and hear “Silent Tongues” and “Air Above Mountains (Buildings Within)” – two records of Cecil in his grandest form playing live and solo. I was devastated. I heard it all. Everything that arrogant critics claim they can hear: Brubeck, the church, and most of all Ellington. It was all there, just waiting for me to hear it in the right way at the right moment and for it to sucker punch me in the right spot.

I don’t try to convert people to Cecil. You can’t. All you can do is tell your loved ones over and over again “His music is beautiful, just keep listening”.

It is. It hasn’t stopped inspiring me yet.


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