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Dewey Redman / Cecil Taylor / Elvin Jones: Momentum Space

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Three established veterans at the top of their games. An essential disc for Cecil Taylor fans.
Dewey Redman / Cecil Taylor / Elvin Jones: Momentum Space
Momentum Space was released in 1999 on Verve Records. Considering the players—saxophonist Dewey Redman, pianist Cecil Taylor and drummer Elvin Jones—the album didn't make much of a splash. Reviews were mixed, leaning toward the dismissive.

Taylor was 70 at the time. Jones was in his early 70s and saxman Redman was in his late 60s. Taylor was widely considered a genius of free jazz, or a madman who was going out there on the bandstand and jiving us—the same things that were said about alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Elvin Jones rose to fame on his work with John Coltrane during the saxophonist's '60s Impulse! Records years. He went on the carve out his own high-level career as a leader. Redman was best known for his late-'60s/early-'70s work with Ornette Coleman, and his playing in Keith Jarrett's American Quartet from 1971 through 1976.

Given the trio's played-with/recorded-with pedigrees, fireworks could be expected. They were delivered. The opener, "Nine," written by Redman, is wild. It could serve as a soundtrack to the shenanigans that went down in the Capitol on January 6, 2020. Redman blows with determined ferocity. Jones pounds out a dense, free-swinging ruckus; and Cecil Taylor is, well, Cecil Taylor, flying all over the place, spewing clusters and interludes of "glass chandelier in a tornado" explosions. It is hard to say what the audience for these three players' collaboration expected, but what they got was three established veterans at the top of their games.

"Bekei," an ominous four-minute Elvin Jones drum solo, follows the opener. "Spoonin,'" another Redman tune, is a drums/saxophone duet, and "Life As" is Cecil Taylor going solo, in an uncharacteristically pensive mood in the piece's opening, before the energy level gradually grows while still maintaining a beautiful structure. "It" is a darkly-rollicking Taylor/Jones teaming.

"Is," a 21-minute trio workout, is the masterpiece here—a Taylor tune that is as inspired as anything he ever recorded. Taylor is crazy; Redman shoots flames and Jones sets up a thick jumble of a percussion assault. What is clear here—and in any number of Taylor performances—is that the pianist's madness always seems to have a method to it. This is not some medium-talent artist flailing at the 88s for the sake of flailing; this is a genius at work.

The album wraps up with A 49-second, hollow-sounding, shamanistic Redman solo—a chance for the listener to consider what he/she has just heard.

Reconsidering Momentum Space, perhaps its lackluster reception in some quarters was due to the solo/trio/ duet/ aspect of the outing, a method that has the potential to break the thematic cohesion of the set. That is not the case here. The pieces fit together; the players were inspired, and major late-career statements were made by all involved.

An essential disc for Cecil Taylor fans.

Track Listing

Nine; Bakei; Spoonin'; Life As; It; Is; Dew.

Personnel

Dewey Redman
saxophone, tenor

Album information

Title: Momentum Space | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Verve Music Group


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