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Cecil Taylor/William Parker/Masashi Harada : The Dance Project

Why did it take 18 years to release this album? One could hazard a guess. First, the context: Pianist Cecil Taylor, bassist William Parker and percussionist Masashi Harada recorded these tracks in Berlin in July 1990, and only now do they appear on CD. Though the music that makes up The Dance Project was performed with dancers, it now must be considered on its own terms.

Taylor, perhaps the most iconoclastic pianist in jazz, begins alone, stabbing staccatos into the keys-at the low end, in the middle range, at the high end. Voices appear, barely audible. Then: a pause in the action. More voices, incomprehensible. Parker plucks a few notes, and Harada strikes some percussive instruments, unidentifiable. The voice grows louder and ominous. One cannot dismiss the idea that the visuals were part and parcel of this performance, and that without them the music cannot fully be appreciated.

Still, we must try-this is a CD, not a DVD. And by today’s standards, it’s a short album, just 39 minutes. The program is broken in half: The first part, “Astral Fluid on the Earth,” consists of two songs: “Looking Into the Universe” and “Emerging From the Cosmic Exterial” (was Sun Ra in the house?). The second half, “Soul Activities,” comprises the tunes “Feeling” and “Willing.” Is that important? Who knows? The Dance Project is a silly installment in Taylor’s oeuvre. There are wonderfully turbulent passages in “Feeling,” but overall there doesn’t seem to be a point. Maybe the movements of the dancers elevated the music to another level, but we can only guess.

Originally Published