Cecil Taylor

Cecil Taylor: Algonquin

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This four-part suite for piano and violin was commissioned by the Library of Congress, and recorded in performance there in February of 1999. It was composed by Taylor, but the liner notes indicate that what Taylor provided in terms of a score was idiosyncratic -- columns of individual notes along with "symbols and scribbles to suggest attacks, transitions, etc." Violinist Mat Maneri took a day to figure out his part based on Taylor's unorthodox score, and the resulting performance is what you might expect: basically a set of four improvisations based on a sketch of musical ideas. As such, it works pretty well. In the first movement Maneri and Taylor play together as a duo; Maneri's violin is tastefully amplified, which contributes both to a better balance than might have existed otherwise and also an unusual richness of tone. The two players' ideas bounce off one another as often as they feed each other or intertwine, but there is a warmth to their interplay that makes for some very nice moments. Maneri plays solo on the second movement, and his relaxed but emotional rendering of Taylor's musical ideas is very attractive. Taylor takes over on the third movement, and his own solo turn is also impressive. Their final duo passage is more energized than the first, and brings the program to a satisfying close. Fans of Taylor will know what to expect and should enjoy this album; newcomers may find it a bit daunting.

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