Nefertiti the Beautiful One Has Come
Contents: 2xCD or 3xLP
Revenant No. 202
By 1962, American pianist Cecil Taylor had been at the fringes of the jazz establishment for several years. His angular, percussive attack and unconventional harmonic sense bred controversy among players and listeners alike and proved at odds with most rhythm sections. While embraced by progressive critics–even voted ‘new star’ by Down Beat–Taylor passed most of that year with few gigs and many hours of work as a dishwasher to show for it. At least, he has said, he knew why he was washing dishes: a personal decision following the death of his father in 1961 to be faithful to his own artistic vision at all costs. This commitment, combined with an intensely creative gestation period during which Taylor’s Unit firmly meshed, led to his decisive break through the last barrier hindering his musical voice: the barline.
The Cafe Montmartre recordings of November 23, 1962 capture the birth of the mature Taylor style. The boppish lines of Jimmy Lyons retain ties to the past, while Sunny Murray’s coruscating, arrhythmic washes point the way to the future (just as they would for Albert Ayler only a few years later). Originally issued by Freedom in 1975 but heretofore unavailable domestically on CD, Nefertiti has attained cult status as one of the crucial recordings of Taylor’s career.
“Members of the audience fidgeted, whispered, and wandered nervously in and out of the tent, as if the ground beneath had suddenly become unbearably hot.” – Whitney Balliett on Cecil Taylor’s performance a the 1958 Great South Bay Jazz Festival
“4 Stars. Gorgeous – Cecil zealots just hit paydirt.” – Downbeat
“Essential.” – The Wire magazine
“I know not how John Fahey’s new Revenant imprint is securing the rights to release all the recordings that it’s issued to date, but I hope to hell it keeps on doing so. With the release of this double CD, we can now hear Taylor’s complete 23 November 1962 Cafe Montmartre session in true one-stop fashion. No more is it necessary to thumb through the used bins searching for half-beat Arista/Freedom and Black Lion sides in hopes of assembling a portion of that famed evening’s concert. This new issue even includes an alternate take of ‘Call’ and a heretofore unreleased (and untitled) 20-minute composition! So, why get so worked up about a Cecil Taylor reissue?
Well, my friends, this is not just any Cecil Taylor reissue. When this recording first found its way onto vinyl, Nefertiti unequivocally documented this trio’s emergence as the preeminent ‘new thing’ ensemble anywhere, period. Even though the regulars at the Monmartre were commonly treated to late night sessions with Ayler, Monk, Coltrane and Miles, this trio opened up doors that haven’t closed since. This was Taylor’s first release to declare that he was unquestionably committed to taking his music well beyond the contemporary jazz orthodoxy he exceeded with his 1959 debut release, Jazz Advance. Nefertiti literally finds Taylor, Lyons, and Murray on fire. Taylor’s indefatigable buffeting is matched step by step by Jimmy Lyons’ screaming alto and Sunny Murray’s unrelenting percussion barrage. There’s a certain elevated pathos between Cecil and Sunny that drives the music ever forward. The two feed off of each other’s energy to continually raise the group’s momentum to higher and higher levels. In contrast, Lyons’ horn almost acts as a necessary counterbalance to Taylor and Murray’s rhythmic propulsion; tempering the trio’s music with a somewhat less frenzied color and cadence. It’s amazing how Lyons appears to blow a string of notes so effortlessly, when for all intents and purposes, the man is dancing atop an active volcano. With as much frenetic energy as this music exudes, it also possesses a certain lyricism and abstract tranquillity (cf. ‘Call’). Moving beyond the musical holism embraced by Ellington, Monk, and Tristano, Cecil Taylor saw (and still does see) music as existing on meta-scales far beyond the individual notes and chords of which it is comprised. (Now when was it that Ayler said, “It’s not about notes anymore”?) We are indeed fortunate to be able to once again listen to ‘the sound of jazz to come’ as it was recorded on that momentous evening, because on the morning of 24 November 1962, the world was forever a different place.” – Mike Trouchon
- Trance, 8:55
- Call, 8:33 (listen)
- Lena, 6:39
- D Trad That’s What, 22:16
- What’s New, 12:10
- Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come, 9:10
- Lena ver. 2, 14:22
- Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come ver. 2, 8:00