cecil taylor | performance of october 1-13,1974 at keystone korner, san francisco


PERFORMANCE OF OCTOBER 1 – 13, 1974 at Keystone Korner, San Francisco

Cecil Taylor / piano, voice, Jimmy Lyons / alto saxophone, Andrew Cyrille / drums.

“It’s not about notes anymore. It’s about feelings!” Albert Ayler *3)

ART an attempt to unlearn what has been learned, to release the Spirit from un reasoned/un “known” social restraints. What is called “voluntary”. Fixed time/rhythm/harmony/melody as the least suspect agents of internal (SELF) control. Emotion. Cultural Repression Of The West. Taylor’s music a conscious transcendent force – return the mind to the body (“Creating Music as sound within the whole body”).

Neither formed nor formless, but a new synthesis. Pre-determined structure (composition)/ parts interchangeable/ each able to be stretched, condensed, modified at will. Thirty Minutes or Two Hours.

“To play what one hears is our objective. Downward & inward are the forces bent to live as recognition of the invisible: spirit” *1)

An individual/group function. Each player – Taylor/Lyons/Cyrille – singularly vital. But together (as Unit) plumb the depths of the self (the Infinite) – feelings contradict/relate/support/deny – but finally are: Co-exist/ BE without violence.

“…instinctive ability relearned released, unchained, to then become forces moving as part of the Universe: recognizant of earth (ground) animal, plant, sky as energy factors within our touch, we have abilities to become in otherness’s ourselves transported beyond pedestrian terrain ” *1)

Finally, a new Dance (It Swings!)


The “multi-layered rhythmical complexes” like so many fingers massaging the mind – opening it to new, seemingly limitless horizons. A New “Way…”

“Improvisation is a tool of refinement an attempt to capture ‘dark’ instinct cultivation of the acculturated to learn one’s nature in response to group (society) first hearing ‘beat’ as it exists in each living organism.” *1)

What strikes the most is the incredible energy Taylor/Lyons/Cyrille find within themselves night after night after night. The manner in which they give of themselves (totally) to 50 or 100 people (The “crowds” were never much more).

Cecil bounds on stage – white tennis shoes, T-shirt, small stocking cap (orange or purple), tinted glasses (which he later removes). Within seconds – SOUND calling attention. Several chords (clusters of notes), highly infectious, setting up tentative points of reference (rhythmic/harmonic) – to be worked on, transcended, finally not needed (perhaps recalled). A held-in suspension tonality: or a pan (a)-tonality. A flowing, rising/falling PULSE that has heads swaying back and forth.

Cyrille comes crashing…THUNDERING in. Like the ground swelling. The earth moving. The skies opening. His sound gives “substance” to the more ethereal piano sound. Later he may lunge from his stool. Bang the WALL. The FLOOR. The stool ITSELF. Or SOME available percussion instrument.

Lyons joins BLOWING (on musical cue). A brief calm perhaps: Like the Eye of a Hurricane. Taylor/Cyrille momentarily subside. Slowly, unnoticed, the piece churns forward. With a disguised momentum (was there EVER a calm?) Lyons’s phrases short, built on repetition/contrast/deferred resolution that finally explode into a Trane/Sanders/Ayler-like frenzy.


Feelings are many and multiplied/Always Intense: Exhilaration/ Joy/ (even) Sadness. An other level/every level Surrealism. Enlightening. Never Boring. Entirely IN-volving. A Sense that you are in the Presence of a great Artist (Artists): Taylor/Lyons/Cyrille (as Unit).

cecil_color.jpg*1) Cecil Taylor quotations above are from an adjunct chapter to Mysteries, a book to be published by Taylor about methodological concepts of black music.


thejazzcomposers.jpg*2) “RING DEM BELLS” is quoted from Cecil Taylor’s THE MUSICIAN, published in a booklet included with records by the Jazz Composers Orchestra (1001-2).


thenewwaveinjazzimpulse.jpg*3) Albert Ayler quotation from notes to The New Wave In Jazz. Impulse A-90.)


Cecil Taylor’s web page

Henry Kuntz, 1974


One Response to “cecil taylor | performance of october 1-13,1974 at keystone korner, san francisco”

  1. Dear Mr. Kuntz,

    Do you have any information regarding Cecil’s appearance at the Keystone Korner in March 1976? That’s when I was with the Cecil Taylor Unit. The band was very well received out of all the places we played in the USA. Thanks.

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