Years after this 1981 performance at a Swiss venue, pianist Cecil Taylor advised producer Werner X Uehlinger that this was his best solo concert, as the 2nd Set chronicles the order of performance and follows up the 2015 reissue of Garden 1st Set (hatOLOGY, 2015). And to cite the often-used movie critic adjective, this concert was truly riveting.
Taylor performs on a 92-key Bosendorfer piano, providing extra bass keys to bottom F. Taylor proffers a detailed soundstage amid his interchanging cadences and homogenous blend of melody, discordance and rapid-fire outbreaks. He's a master of invention and alters the currents with split-second accuracy, spanning off-center blues vamps; traces of Ellington, stately motifs, Chamber and avant-garde centric fabrications. At times, the artist takes on the characteristics of a renegade classical concert pianist going against the grain.
The pianist's monstrous block chords add emphasis and a sense of urgency to many of these movements. On the lengthiest track "Garden II," he largely operates at a maddening pace as he reimagines previously enacted themes on a continual basis, staggered with fractured voicings and artful use of space, perhaps allowing the listener to digest a horde of subplots. During "Pemmican," Taylor ignites a stark vista by using the lower registers and pedals, subsequently synthesizing a jazz-classical framework along with some balladry and nods to Thelonious Monk. He mixes it up and doesn't reside within any particular genre for very long by executing angular and geometric patterns with some memorable melodic intervals and reverse-engineering progressions.
On the brief 2:49 final track "Points," Taylor inserts a percussive element with a few nods to early piano pioneers such as James P. Johnson or Jelly Roll Morton, sparking a trad-jazz scenario via an abundance of contrapuntal maneuvers. In sum, Taylor projects a series of mind-altering puzzles and briskly paced thematic developments and sometimes operating at time warp speed while accomplishing these all-embracing feats in a mere 46-minutes.
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