Cecil Taylor's tremendous harmonic imagination emerges just moments into this five part, solo piano performance, proof positive that the grand master's skills remain precise and finely-honed well into this new millennium.
The fact that Taylor's pianistic concept is all-encompassing--synthesizing pan-tonal, chromatic, and diatonic resources--has lead to inaccurate assessments and value judgments with regard to atonality, which, according to the theorist, George Russell, is the complete negation of tonal centers, either horizontally or vertically.
The extended first movement in fact bears witness to a tonal-center based approach not unlike that explored by some of the early 20th century composers such Debussy and Albeniz, where motives or thematic cells based on tonal centers provide multiple points of departure for the performer. Narrow harmonic viewpoints are simply not part of this advanced aesthetic, which is all about contrast, dialogue, and their cumulative expressive effect. It also suggests the degree to which Taylor is not in the least bit disconnected from music history.
For new listeners especially, this is an opportunity to hear one of the great performers of our time.
by James D. Armstrong, Jr.
Editor, Music in Transition
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