In the nearly forty years since the recording of Unit Structures, Cecil Taylor has steadfastly developed his orchestral music as arguably the most unique musical expression of one of the (jazz) world's most intelligent and idiosyncratic minds. Recorded during the Total Music Meeting in Berlin on November 2, 1996, Almeda is an honest documentation of a single Taylor "composition for large ensemble.
It begins, as has generally been the case in recent years, with the leader vocalizing, intoning words and sounds, eerie and earthy, that set the stage for the piece's evolution. Taylor leaves plenty of space for the individual instrumentalists to express themselves before joining the group on piano. Two longtime associates, bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jackson Krall, provide a tonal and rhythmic underpinning which coheres the probing, conversational horn interaction among trumpeter Chris Matthay; trombonist Jeff Hoyer; saxophonists Elliott Levin, Chris Jonas, and Harri Sjöström; and the distinctive cellist Tristan Honsinger.
There is genuine drama in the music, which is in many ways narrative, yet indescribable. There's a sense of humanity and natural order to it that leads one to believe that although it sounds like no other music, it does have its own place in describing something of this universe, or perhaps out of it. It is a soundtrack for the world of Cecil Taylor, which is indeed a very interesting world. There's sensitivity and strength, foreboding and joy, power and delicacy, conflict and conviction. It's all very refreshing and intriguing, unlike anything else in both its mechanics and spirituality.
At the piano, Taylor remains a force of nature, capable of expressing the full range of emotions from the most delicate to the most intense, with a sense of pathos and humor, and inspiring his followers' incredibly creative improvisations. The music is both energizing and cathartic. It draws in the attentive listener and rewards them with an unparalleled experience that awakens the imagination and provides an escape from and insight into this world.
Chris Matthay: trumpet; Chris Jonas: soprano & alto saxophones; Harri Sj