Pleistozaen Mit Wasser (Shakin' the Glass)

Cecil Taylor

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Pleistozaen Mit Wasser (Shakin' the Glass) Review

by Thom Jurek

Here we go. Two of the wizards of free improvisation -- hell, a pair of the weirdest and most wonderful guys ever to play music -- team up for an evening in Berlin in 1988. Most notable about this set is that Derek Bailey plays half of it on acoustic guitar and half of it on electric guitar, and what didn't happen. Things start softly enough, with Bailey looking for a language to engage Taylor. That language consists of slowly plinked and plucked strings that Taylor responds to not with his piano, but with a low, guttural groan and his poetry droning into the face of the guitar. The way he reads and half speaks/half sings toward Bailey is almost absentminded. Bailey's playing is wonderful, pretty in places, furious and flagrant in others. Harmonic notions come fully formed from his fingers and Taylor is silent (it might have looked different in person), but here it's just dead space. After 13 minutes or so, Bailey takes control of the tomfoolery and just goes for it. It will be nearly a half hour into the performance before Taylor goes near the piano, at which point Bailey plugs in electric. But that's about all. His playing is stellar, he moves through mode after mode of changing timbre, nuance, and harmonic shifts and shapes -- and Taylor contents himself to play the role of his accompanist. There isn't any heat (at least not the kind one would expect from such a meeting); there isn't the kind of explosive aggression one would expect from Taylor and so formidable a partner. In the end, the set never goes anywhere really, becoming a meandering mass of ideas that don't connect to each other or to anything else. What a disappointment. In fact, this set should have been called "Glass of Water on the Table Sitting Still."

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