It would be far too limited to say the legacy of the MPS label only built on its exquisite, world-famous studio sound. Indeed, the “secret weapon” of the Black Forest team in many recordings was the Bösendorfer Imperial Grand piano which is still located – and played! - at the very same corner in the recently new-opened studios since the day it was hoisted into the building for a Friedrich Gulda session. On Sunday, September 14th 1980 however, the Bösendorfer saw a definite moment of glory.
With this recording, MPS added an otherworldly gem to its impressive stack of solo piano outings. Without the intention of belittling the great releases by Oscar Peterson, Friedrich Gulda, Wolfgang Dauner or George Shearing, “Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly!” has to be seen and listened to in a category of its own. At this point of his long career Cecil Taylor had reached a level of expression which couldn’t be measured by any comparison - since on the one hand the man had developed a completely unique style of playing and on the other embedded his art into a philosophy which was strongly nurtured on the history of such exotic cultures as Ethiopia, Mesopotamia and Tibet.
When Cecil Taylor arrived in Villingen for this intense week-end of practising, listening and recording it was very rapidly clear that all those clichés – or “the myths” if you like – which the press had constructed around him could easily be refuted. As Joachim Ernst Berendt expounded in his liner notes Taylor was not difficult but disciplined, not anarchic but soft and in his playing dwells order instead of chaos – which is ready to be explored by the eager listener. Being inspired by Duke and Bird, Bud Powell, Herbie Nichols, Art Tatum and even Bessie Smith, Taylor was grounded on a wide range of jazz and blues vocabulary and showed a breathtaking capacity of turning this foundation into a playing which is at the same time vigorous and elementary as well as highly elaborate and – unconsciously or not - follows the principles of classical compositions. These recordings are a splendid showcase of his incomparable artistry.
“Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly!” is more than an album, it is a complex interplay between freedom, form and content. The original side one of the LP is conceived as a suite. Listening to the boisterous intro “T” you understand what Taylor, deeply interested in ballet, meant by saying he aims to depict a jumping dancer on his piano. After a full stop this leads into a pensive portray of the Phoenician sun and moon, war and harvest goddess Ishtar or “Astar” (Ethiopian version of the name), which is then confronted by a very physically “Ensaslayi” inspired by the Tibetian “layi” song tradition. In this suite Taylor, with his tremendously inventive craft, uses blues licks and bop phrases but never rests more than a few bars with one idea, rapidly changes from virtuoso rolls to brutal clusters to silence taking the motives and figures with him, working with them in an abstract way. Which can also be said about side two, where he takes us again on a journey, telling a story about the Mesopotamian King Akkad and throws himself into a dedication to an Ethiopian rock named Amba which he forges into an epic and obstinate piece of music.
Freedom, as Taylor’s recordings show, has nothing to do with arbitrariness. The real artist, as erratic his works seem to be from the outside, never loses track of the paramount order within. It is only then that he is able to ““Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly!”, as the artist wrote into Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer’s guest book. And this is why – in the words of Alex von Schlippenbach - you can “breathe the air from another planet” by listening to Cecil Taylor.