I’m now listening to Cecil Taylor doing something comparable to improvised jazz. The first track on ‘The World of Cecil Taylor’ (Candid 9006, 1960) is called ‘Air’, and could easily be discounted as just a bunch of, let’s say, well-enhanced would-be’s plonking around on their piano, drums and bass to demonstrate their undoubted mastery of the skills without ending up making anything approaching real music – until you get halfway through, and the age-old jazz trick of ‘fours with the drummer’ kicks in. At which point you realise that Cecil on piano and Dennis Charles on drums are actually playing the same phrases, competitively bouncing them off each other and winding each other’s last shot up to the next level, and that they know the rules too. At which point you – or at any rate I – burst out laughing.
But it’s track two that really proves my point (if I have one). It’s a corny ballad from South Pacific called ‘This Nearly Was Mine’. Taylor mischievously tears it apart and stitches it back together like a child playing with a dressing-up box – but the song never gets lost; and I imagined that he was feeling, and expressing, a variant of what Rodgers was after when he tried to catch Emile’s emotions when he thought he’d lost Nellie.
But I’ve stretched this far enough, so I’m off to antidote with a chunk of The Clash. Who also knew how to break the rules they knew.