Cecil Taylor: Algonquin (2004)
Spending taxpayer money wisely, the Library of Congress commissioned Cecil Taylor to write a work for violin and piano in 1999. The resulting Algonquin features the pianist alongside violinist Mat Maneri, recorded before an audibly appreciative audience. Clearly enjoying the company, Taylor plays it frisky, free and light. Maneri has a more youthful-sounding partner than on his Gravitational Systems duet with Matthew Shipp.
Reciting a short poem, Taylor opens "Part One." Maneri plays a solo improvisation, sounding already warmed up. Taylor plays harpist with the piano strings, plucking, stroking, and muting them. He cries like a martial artist, and Maneri drops out wihle Taylor commences two-handed orchestrations. Quickly returning to the fray, Maneri spins a long yarn around the ivory storm Taylor unleashes. The pianist's idea geyser remains a wonder, the violinist's ease speeding through that minefield remarkable as well. The two roll in waves, exhausting possibilities.
Taylor plays "Part Two" as a tuneful, tender, reflective meditation of borderless intimacy. Brief as a flower or a haiku, it's a little gem for the Taylor canon. On "Part Three" Maneri floats brief, spacious variations through his instrument's low range. By the end similar phrases linked by light-fire finger runs takes it out.
For "Part Four" Taylor introduces chording that could be a dense cubist version of "Tequila." Maneri saunters in and they get to work. Taylor's hands fly over rippling chords and variations, and Maneri cuts through like a fencing master. When Taylor rains keys over him, Maneri becomes the wind. Taylor amps up to full force and Maneri never blinks, the two locking into ecstatic musical dance.
Although credited on violin, Maneri occasionally sounds like he brought his signature viola for this show. Both sound like they brought their A-Game, and with these two, that's good news for every ear.
Track Listing: Part 1; Part 2: Part 3; Part 4.
Personnel: Cecil Taylor, piano; Mat Maneri, violin.