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Cecil Taylor's involvement in the dance world might be little known to most fans of the prominent pianist. Yet Taylor honed some of his talents by accompanying ballet rehearsals at a young age, and has continued the practice through his work with such dance luminaries as Dianne McIntyre and Mikhail Baryshnikov. With renowned bassist William Parker and Japanese percussionist Masashi Haradaboth of whom share Taylor's multidisciplinary approachthe unit creates careful and astute improvisational accompaniment for four dancers on CT: The Dance Project.
The disc contains two distinguished works, each of which is broken into two parts. The first work, "Astral Fluid on the Earth," opens with the sparse explorations of "Looking Into the Universe." Taylor's piano rumbles its opening chords before drifting into more reactive territory where each musical gesture is given its proper due before the next. When Taylor's opening dissipates, Parker's bass defines the space further as Harada's percussion skitters and swerves about, all the while the musicians interspersing their playing with dramatically stated vocal gestures. "Emerging from the Cosmic Exterial" closes the first section with an elastic piano and bass duet that fills its brief four minutes with enough emotive resonance as many works twice its length.
Taylor's last notes glide into silence before the second section, "Soul Activities," opens with further forays by Taylor, whose always distinct piano playing simultaneously draws from the vaults of Duke Ellington and Arnold Schoenberg. Parker soon joins on bass, bowing into the mix before creating a light pulse over which Taylor can texturally elaborate. When Harada comes in, his sense of restraint reveals him to be the unselfish and musical percussionist he is. Allowing the pulse to be carried more clearly by Parker, Harada shapes the mood with his sound choices more than with his groove.
Perhaps it is their role as accompanists in this scenario, but the whole of the album is marked by a distinct sense of restraint, highlighting interaction and careful mood setting rather than dynamic buildups and dramatic delivery. The result, as evidenced by the closing "Willing," is an angular work whose flow is marked as much by the spaces between the musicians and their individual sound worlds as by the tautness of the unit's delivery. It is a compelling and creative work that bubbles with spontaneity as the musicians sonically move among themselves and their dancing counterparts.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.