Cecil Taylor – Unit Structures

Album Information:
Originally released in 1966 on Blue Note Records
Recorded May 19, 1966
1973 Reissue
Format: LP

Cecil Taylor – Piano
Alan Silva – Upright Bass
Henry Grimes – Upright Bass
Andrew Cyrille – Drums
Jimmy Lyons – Alto Saxophone
Eddy Gale Stevens, Jr. – Trumpet
Ken McIntyre – Alto Saxophone, Oboe, Bass Clarinet

Track Notes

All compositions by Cecil Taylor
A1 – Steps (10:15)

Descriptors: Dense, Chaotic, Energetic, Busy, Polyphonic, Dissonant

  • Horns lead, everything else tumbles after it
  • Instruments very conversational
  • Stop and start drums in right channel
  • Basses switch between plucked (pizzicato) and bowed (arco)
  • Horns drop out near end for high-energy piano solo (backed by free-wheelin rhythm section)


*A2 – Enter, Evening (Soft Line Structure) (11:00)

Descriptors: Sparse, Spacious, Minimal, Nocturnal

  • Minimal drums
  • melodies seem to grow out of each other, as if the instruments are finishing each other’s sentences
  • feels like lurking down the street at night
  • a lot of bowed (arco) bass)
  • muted trumpets over somewhat walking bass, every musician free to go on tangents


*B1 – Unit Structures / As of a Now / Section (16:45)

Descriptors: Progressive Structure, Thematic Improvisation,

  • Droney Intro with rumbling tom drums, transient piano sounds, deep horns, and   bowed upright bass
  • Energy rises and falls
  • Solo piano fragment cues a new movement with more energy and rhythm, loose descending melodies with stop & start drums and staccato piano
  • plays with the spectrum of density and sparsity
  • Instruments drop out to silence, horns and clarinet enter for windy melodies
  • Flowing sax enters with drums, Cecil responds and shadows sax
  • muted trumpet over free swing
  • stops again and goes into horn arpeggios
    • horns and piano playful with each other
  • a lot of stopping and starting where a bunch of instruments join in to comp whoever’s leading and then drop out
  • Mood gets a little more ominous, dissonant pianos and dark horn theme
  • Intensity builds into deep sax solo over hectic, spidery piano and drums until another flowing sax line enters with bass
  • short screechy arco bass & piano duet
    • other instruments join in short, low-intensity bursts
  • Fire Cecil solo backed by drums and minimal bass, until everything drops out
  • horns come in together with loose theme followed by other instruments, until song ends shortly after


B2 – Tales (8 Whisps)

Whisps are intersections uniting uninterrupted game continuum”

  • Whisp 1: piano solo (L) w/ drum shadowing (R)
    • spidery piano (weird staccato rhythms in quick bursts with notes moving together and apart like spider legs)
    • stopping and starting
    • pause
  • Whisp 2
    • solo piano, slow dissonant chords
    • squeaky horns tentatively join. whispery
    • eerie, cautious vibe
    • scratchy archo bass creeps in, starting shadowing the piano during quick energy bursts
  • Whisp 3
    • energetic pulsing piano solo, almost like distorted bebop
    • piano gains in intensity, dissonant chord staccatos indicate end of whisp
  • Whisp 4
    • pulsing piano and bass duet
    • joined by shadowing, energetic drums
    • avalanches of piano notes
    • pulsing bass underneath piano solo and wild swinging drums
    • back to piano arpeggios to end whisp
  • Whisp 5
    • relatively melodic piano solo with dashes of dissonance
    • ends with pretty chords


Leave a Reply