I have to post something about the concert I heard on Sunday - the much-hyped first ever meeting between Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton, with William Parker and Tony Oxley. As it is, everything musically I would want to say about the gig has been expressed with much more eloquence than I could manage here. (Reading this post feels rather pleasantly like having our conversation on the drive home all over again, though with somewhat less overexcitement!) So perhaps I can risk a couple of more personal comments on my own experience of the concert. In short, the gig was in all ways one of the best concert-going experiences I have ever had. I was late - I had a gig earlier that day in Taunton, and as we got closer to London (hearing Federer win Wimbledon once again, and deciding that tennis doesn't really work on radio) the roads got more and more clogged at every junction. My stress levels increased somewhat - more so when the South Bank Centre car park proved difficult to find. Still, in the end I arrived only twenty or twenty-five minutes after the scheduled start. There had been speculation as to who the support band would be - as I was shown into my seat and my eyes adjusted to the dark, I realized that what people had been joking about had happened - it was Polar Bear. I had never heard them live, so in a way I was glad to, but I am afraid to say that for all their musical skill I found the music utterly inocuous and often tedious. Perhaps I am being unfair to them because this was the wrong venue - perhaps one needs to hear them in a sweaty club. But actually they were a perfect support band - they heightened my anticipation for the main event no end!
The drama of the rest of the show was astonishing. I was hugely excited to hear Cecil perform some of his poetry (the highlight for me being the relish with which Cecil pronounced the word 'shrub') and dance to the piano - he had done neither the two previous times I've heard him live. The duos with Oxley were, it is true, a little musically odd - even tentative - at times (though Cecil's touch and harmony were enthralling) - but this increased my sense of anticipation, always wondering if Parker and Braxton were going to wander out and join them. Hearing William Parker - one of my bass heroes, I think it is fair to say - solo was a totally unexpected bonus. I have heard some people felt aggrieved by the lack of a second set by the quartet, and I certainly would have loved to hear one, but actually in terms of the shape of the evening I didn't feel short-changed. The set they did play was an epic journey itself. I don't think I have ever spent an evening where for the entire night I was literally on the edge of my seat, leaning forward to catch more of the music. I'm glad there aren't more gigs than this - I'm not sure my nervous system could take it.