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Review: Cecil Taylor Tribute Concert at Harlem Stage

Honoree is a no-show, but his spirit is invoked

Geri Allen (l.) and Henry Grimes perform at Cecil Taylor- From The Five Spot To The World, Harlem Stage, Nov. 2015
Henry Grimes performs at Cecil Taylor- From The Five Spot To The World, Harlem Stage, Nov. 2015
Jason Moran performs at Cecil Taylor- From The Five Spot To The World, Harlem Stage, Nov. 2015
Henry Threadgill, Geri Allen and Henry Grimes perform at Cecil Taylor- From The Five Spot To The World, Harlem Stage, Nov. 2015
Henry Threadgill, Henry Grimes, Geri Allen and Jason Moran (l. to r.) at Cecil Taylor- From The Five Spot To The World, Harlem Stage, Nov. 2015

Harlem Stage’s mid-November benefit concert “Cecil Taylor: From the Five Spot to the World” was intended as a celebration of the legendarily mercurial pianist. Of course, the downside to honoring an artist known for unpredictability is that it can backfire, as when your guest of honor no-shows his own party.

The announcement that Taylor would not be taking his place on the program was met with a muted murmur of surprise and disappointment, though it didn’t seem to put a damper on the enthusiastic responses to the performers who did appear. The evening centered on two pianists who have both channeled Taylor’s innovations into their own very personal languages: Jason Moran and Geri Allen. They were joined by Henry Threadgill, whose work is similar to Taylor’s in its eccentricity if diametrically different in its temperament; and bassist Henry Grimes, who performed and recorded with Taylor in the 1960s.

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