I feel like I should go see Cecil Taylor at Iridium this Thursday. He's playing with Henry Grimes for the first time in 40 years or so (Grimes played on Conquistador!, Unit Structures and Into The Hot), and drummer Pheeroan Aklaff, who I mostly know from his late '80s work backing Sonny Sharrock. I feel like I should go because recent reports have indicated Cecil's starting to flag, finally, as he creeps toward 80; his recent solo performance was marked by shortness of breath and shaking hands, though he was still more than capable of tearing hunks of raw beauty out of the air. So, though I doubt it is, this could be my last chance to see him live.
I'm very, very glad to have been able to see Taylor twice in the company of my late friend Ken - once at a 1/2 solo, 1/2 trio Avery Fisher Hall performance, once with a trio at Iridium. And indeed, Ken's absence is part of the reason I don't particularly want to go this time. Live jazz without the friend in whose company I heard so many brilliant musicians, is still something of a raw wound, and is likely to be for some time.
The other reason I don't have quite the enthusiasm I might, though, is the presence of Henry Grimes. To be honest, I've been pretty disappointed by his comeback these past few years. The live disc with David Murray and Hamid Drake on Ayler is a perfect example - his tone's frequently muddy, he gets lost a lot, and he overplays. None of these things were true of his mid-'60s recordings or the live bootlegs I've heard of him behind Sonny Rollins in '62. So he's coasting on the good will of the community, whether he knows it or not. It's entirely possible he's not fully aware how much his abilities have diminished. (An exception that must be cited, in fairness, is his work on Marc Ribot's Spiritual Unity CD. He does a terrific job there.) I don't think Grimes has what it takes to keep up with Cecil. Not in 2006.
The other reason I don't want to see Cecil on Thursday is that on Saturday, I'm going to watch Aki Takahashi play two solo piano pieces by Morton Feldman. The difference between these two performers, and the material they'll be performing, couldn't be starker. And frankly, I think fresh memories of what will almost certainly be a convulsive, volcanic performance from Cecil will keep me from fully appreciating the slowly unfolding beauty of For Bunita Marcus (one of the two pieces Takahashi will be playing), making me frustrated with Feldman's glacial rhythms. No, I think it's better to approach Feldman with a relatively clear head.