Perhaps it would be easier to analyze this music intellectually, to report on what happens between the instrumentalists mechanically and give a play by play. But it would be selling out what Cecil Taylor tried to accomplish here. The simple facts are that for one month in the summer of 1988, Taylor lived in Berlin and took part in an ambitious musical project that had him doing everything: playing solo concerts on both sides of the Berlin Wall, playing duets, creating a workshop (this CD), and playing a pair of concerts with 17-piece jazz orchestras made up entirely of European musicians. This workshop is far more successful than either of the orchestra dates, due in part to the extensive rehearsals. Among the participants were Paul Plimley, Georg Wolf, and Uwe Martin. Legba Crossing is a conceptual work, built from ground up, utilizing specifically the considerable young talent he had in front of him. The piece is not the careening, chaotic, free for all one might expect. There is a dynamic and dramatic control Taylor has over the entire ensemble. There are numerous vocalists who pipe in strange poetry and lyrics amid a wash of strings and winds. The reeds and percussion hold forth not as solo instruments so much but as spiritual mainstays, keeping the music rooted in a kind of jazz that hadn't been heard even in Europe for a very long time. Plimley's piano (Taylor's only present as director and in sotto voce) is the steel frame around which everything else swirls and breathes. This music is moving, full of pathos and emotion, but also nuance and figurative speech in both voice and instrumental utterance. Taylor's attempt to showcase the location where the gatekeeper (in Voudon) himself crosses between worlds is a wild, but hardly inaccessible ride. Though it is thoroughly outside in terms of presentation and execution, it is also penetrable and spiritually uplifting. When waltz time and 12-bar blues enter the performance, it becomes obvious that Taylor, for once, is attempting to share his musical and social iconography with the rest of us. What a treat.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek