Recorded at the 1999 Total Music Meeting festival and released over four years later, just before Cecil Taylor's 75th birthday, Incarnation is a special date, something to cherish. Featuring drummer Andrew Cyrille (credited as a special guest), guitarist Franky Douglas, and cellist Tristan Honsinger, this concert packs a lot of excitement, grace, and invention. Cyrille's drumming allies the ferociousness and feline grace of the lion, his playing remaining more confined to the role of an accompanist than Tony Oxley's, yet matching and even anticipating the pianist's mood swings at an uncanny level, just like the days when he was a regular fixture of the pianist's quartet. Douglas offers the strangest contributions: the true wild card of the concert, he keeps on introducing new ideas, from electronic-sounding textures to warped, bluesy licks, to no-brainer rhythmic chugging (announced and startling, 30 minutes into "Focus"). Honsinger also displays a wide range of creative moves, his performance corresponding to what he usually brings to Taylor's groups. Taylor himself is in his good, average shape, maybe a little less assertive than usual. Except for the walk-in and walk-off when he utters a few words, he sticks to the ivories, often stopping altogether to listen to the trio -- one of the disc's highlight is one such moment in "Cartouche," where the interplay between cello and guitar hits a peak. Although indexed into three pieces ("Focus," "Carnation," and "Cartouche"), Incarnation consists of a single continuous 77-minute performance.
AllMusic Review by François Couture