Since the late-'80s, the pioneering imprint FMP has released more of pianist Cecil Taylor's work than any other company, including the mammoth box set documenting his month-long 1988 residency in Berlin. CT: The Dance Project, recorded two years later, documents a performance of which this music was only one component. Bert Noglik's accompanying notes afford reminiscences of what occurred as dance and music merged on a July evening in 1990. The album is divided into two multi-part pieces; the dancers' presence may account for the way each section unfolds and the many sudden shifts in dynamic and character.
Of primary importance is whether or not the music works on its own and it does. The sound-world is sparer than much of Taylor's work of the period. In fact, the closest comparisons might include his piano-less albums made for Leo in the late-'80s. As with those recordings, even the densest moments on Dance Project are somehow replete with space. Masashi Harada's playing accounts for much of the novel aesthetic, his touch light and his interjections fewer than those of other drummers in Taylor's orbit. Harada's approach to sound is beautifully aphoristic, a well-placed roll or cymbal stroke speaking volumes in his hands. Even at the moments of highest drama, when Taylor leaves predetermined structure for free flight, Harada's playing is astutely reactive.
Bassist William Parker and Taylor's symbiotic relationship is beautifully captured here, as demonstrated by the opening moments of the album's second large piece, "Soul Activities." Parker's harmonics complement Taylor's multihued pianism, the two creating a multileveled counterpoint as they do throughout the disc. Truly though, Taylor's approach brings the most surprise and enjoyment. While the percussive nature of his work gets the most attention, he commands every detail of each note he plays. His virtuosity here is attendant to his sense of detail, as he executes gorgeous tremolos and exquisite glissandi, the angular arpeggiations more meaningful as a result of the seemingly limitless timbral variety with which they are contextualized.
Taylor spends a fair amount of time off-mic, but there's plenty of room atmosphere which renders his fevered recitations environmentally realistic. The recording is first-rate, each detail captured with stunning clarity. This recording may not scale the visceral heights expected from this pioneer and innovator, but it presents a more introspective side of his art, an aspect discussed too infrequently.
Astral Fluid on the Earth: Looking Into the Universe; Emerging from the Cosmic Exterial; Soul Activities: Feeling; Willing.
Cecil Taylor: piano; William Parker: bass; Masashi Harada: percussion.
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