Leaf Palm Hand

Tony Oxley / Cecil Taylor

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Leaf Palm Hand Review

by Thom Jurek

The duet between pianist Cecil Taylor and drummer Tony Oxley during Taylor's one-month stay in Berlin in 1988 is a study in contrasts. Musically, there is a similarity of approach between the two: Both are physical players with an ear for dark dramatics. Percussively, each attacks his instrument in the same way, palms down, forcing off the fingertips and into the instrument, whether drums or piano. Improvisationally, they differ greatly in that Taylor -- so used to being a soloist -- is proactive while Oxley is reactive; here, they attempt to bring both those roles into sync. Oxley moves his own attack up a notch, employing more elementals than just his kit, trying to "sing" the drums. For the entire hour, Taylor looks deeply toward a romantic sensibility he seldom shows, creating harmonic fixtures from accents and triples, while simultaneously constructing lyric melodies for Oxley to play from. And he does, weaving absolutely thrilling cymbal and bell lines through Taylor's arpeggios, turning his rhythms inside out to create the appearance of a harmonic register that engages all of the different figures Taylor is firing off like lit matches. There's no letup for the entire set; it's one dazzling display after another until the piece just implodes from exhaustion -- physical, that is, as the ideas still come fast and furious -- and leaves the listener dazed and awed by such a soulful yet pyrotechnic display. This is one of Cecil Taylor's most "melodic" improvisations ever.

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