To some of the more militant Euroclassical lovers, the very idea of approaching Giacomo Puccini's 1900 opera Tosca as avant-garde jazz is blasphemous -- the sort of thing that merits not a stiff sentence in purgatory, but eternal damnation without the possibility of parole. Period, end of story, that's all she wrote. But for pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, bassist Gary Peacock, and drummer Paul Motian -- the three improvisers who comprise the acoustic piano trio Tethered Moon -- Tosca isn't a museum piece that must remain under a sheet of glass. It is open to creative interpretation, and Tethered Moon does a lot of interpreting on Experiencing Tosca. There is nothing wrong with going to a classical-friendly venue -- perhaps the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, perhaps the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia -- to hear an exact replica of what Puccini (b. Dec. 22, 1858, d. Nov. 29, 1924) wrote in Italy back in 1900, but that isn't where Kikuchi, Peacock, and Motian are coming from on this CD. Recorded in 2002 -- 102 years after Puccini unveiled Tosca -- Tethered Moon's adaptation of Puccini's famous opera takes numerous liberties, and favors an inside/outside approach. Experiencing Tosca isn't an exercise in atonality -- it isn't as far to the left as most of Cecil Taylor's albums -- but it is definitely abstract and cerebral, not to mention thought-provoking. The very idea that Tethered Moon's members could put a new spin on Tosca no less than 102 years after Puccini wrote it speaks well of their interpretive powers. At times, Experiencing Tosca can be overly self-indulgent, but not in a way that is disrespectful of Puccini's contributions. Besides, a certain amount of self-indulgence is to be expected in avant-garde jazz, and Tethered Moon deserves credit for providing an album that is tasteful as well as intriguing.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson