Cecil Taylor

Erzulie Maketh Scent

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This solo concert, performed on the second to last day of a monthlong stay in Berlin in which Taylor performed in every conceivable setting, is perhaps the most satisfying of his recording career. Taylor's many influences, interests, and obsessions are engaged here: They are mused upon, debated, and underscored for emphasis. His exploratory range has never been greater than it is on this three-part set, with two short and very delightful "songs" tagged on at the end. Taylor's sense of playfulness seldom comes through in his solo work, and this piece is full of it. Here is the place where the man truly lives as an artist. His knowledge of jazz's long and varied history is played out harmonically and modally with melodic intervention, counterpoint, and rhythmic attack (which is shockingly gentle here). This is a long meditation on music as magical force, not a calculated expression of emotional intensity. Certainly there are passages throughout this work where Taylor plays the piano like a drum, but there are many more where he muses and coaxes sound to come forth from the keys. Each of "Erzulie"'s sections begins with a kind of systematic investigation. Where it will lead not even the artist knows, but he's clearly having fun with that notion. Swooping lines are shoved up against scalular patterns and rhythmic stress points. When the music opens up in the middle, he can coo and woo it, even beg from it a secret spatial elegance and grandeur. The chords -- 11ths and 12ths played with astonishing virtuosity and speed -- bring this long song to a thunderous yet warm climax. Before the crowd can even finish its applause, Taylor plays his first little "tune" -- an extrapolation of Fats Waller's boogie-woogie swing -- and just as suddenly it ends, the whorehouse piano gone, only a minute and a half later. Finally, along the keyboard Taylor whispers a theme from Bartok caressed by an Ellingtonian grace from a pair of diminished sevenths. It only lasts a minute, but the crowd got every note and laughs with approval for this thank you from a man not known for them. Of all the solo work Taylor did in the '80s -- and there was plenty -- this is the one to own. Go ahead. Be amazed.

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