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Mary Lou Williams & Cecil Taylor- Embraced

“Today (unfortunately for Jazz) we are also living in a technical world- a world that doesn’t value feeling enough. The temptation is to run up and down the keyboard with great technique but forget that good Jazz requires a story or conversation in the music (not babbling) and feeling.” -Mary Lou Williams

A Concert Of New Music For Two Pianos Exploring The History Of Jazz With Love.
Live at Carnegie Hall, April 17th, 1977

The opening track on this album, “The Lord Is Heavy (A Spiritual)” might be the most challenging acoustic Jazz music I’ve ever listened to. It sounds like a Jazz interpretation of Schizophrenic psychosis and maybe that was the artists’ intention, maybe not. It is both fascinating and borderline unlistenable. The rest of the album showcases piano conversations that are completely wild, compelling & highly cerebral.

Mary Lou Williams & Cecil Taylor had become mutual admirers over the years. They each represented the Jazz avant garde from 2 distinctly different eras. They decided to collaborate on a live performance under one of the most ambitious concepts you could imagine. They wanted to pay tribute to the entirety of the great Art of Jazz, every era & every style, and in doing so, they wanted to explore the possibilities of a New Jazz found within the tribute itself. It’s a difficult concept to wrap one’s mind around, and listening to the results can be just as immense, magical, confusing and challenging. It’s the journey, not the destination, and this album is quite the cerebral ride.

Few other artists could pull something like this off, but I feel these two Jazz luminaries produced something wildly complex, chaotic & beautiful here. My only criticism is that this performance was so long & so intense, that I think Williams & Taylor might have become a bit intellectually exhausted towards the end. It remains an extraordinarily unique performance and definitely well worth the $8 price tag. Mary Lou Williams’ liner are notes are very critical of the modern world of Jazz and quite thought provoking.

Mary Lou Williams & Cecil Taylor- Embraced: A Concert Of New Music For Two Pianos Exploring The History Of Jazz With Love (Double LP) (Pablo Records, 1978) is available here at Folk Arts for $8. This album can be found in my very large Jazz LP section.

There’s only one clip from this performance available on youtube:

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