Cecil Taylor, Cell Walk For Celeste

Steve Smith

By Steve Smith

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Possibly the oddest and certainly the most uneven collection of Cecil Taylor's early Candid sessions, Cell Walk for Celeste offers four compositions taped on January 9th and 10th, 1961, in New York City, three of them in multiple versions. Two takes of the title track — another version appeared on New York City R&B, issued earlier under bassist Buell Neidlinger's name — offer a glimpse of Taylor's Cubist compositional idiom in a formative stage: the dramatic use of empty space, with Denis Charles'drums punctuating rather than driving, definitely points the way ahead. (Take 1 is more dramatic; take 3 is more concise and punchier.) Likewise, Taylor's moody opening and clamorous solo in “Section C” reveal that he was already identifying elements of his mature voice.

A glimpse of Taylor’s Cubist compositional idiom in a formative stage.

Saxophonist Archie Shepp doesn't sound entirely comfortable in Taylor's idiom, but brings a relaxed warmth to two takes of “Davis,” a saxophone-and-bass duet he co-composed with Neidlinger. Two takes of the Mercer Ellington chestnut “Jumpin'Punkins” reveal Taylor's roots in Duke Ellington. With an astounding line-up of Shepp, Steve Lacy, Charles Davis, Clark Terry and Roswell Rudd all making high-spirited contributions, Taylor's punchy comping falls somewhere between Bartók and Basie, and drummer Billy Higgins provides his customary effortless swing.