“Dancing” is a good way to describe Cecil Taylor’s playing. Critics like to focus on the noisy and theatrical aspects — the forearms and fists on the keys — but the random splashes are rare compared to his long stretches of springy, kinetic keyboard work. It’s not pure randomness. His fingers hit the keys with accuracy and purpose, and it adds up to a sound. You know it’s Cecil.
“Dancing” comes up in this 2012 interview of Taylor by Ben Ratliff of The New York Times. I think I read it three years ago; the top certainly sounds familiar. If so, it’s a nice rediscovery right now, as I plunge through the hurricane of Taylor’s 82-minute Akisakila, a trio date with Jimmy Lyons on sax and Andrew Cyrille on drums. It’s relentless and, in the original meaning of the word, awesome.
I located Ratliff’s interview because it’s linked from Nate Chinden’s review of the recent Cecil Taylor-themed benefit for the Harlem Stage. Taylor himself couldn’t make it to the show, which must have been a disappointment, especially with tickets going for benefit-sized prices.
Even so, listening to pianists Geri Allen and Jason Moran makes for an evening well spent. Even better, Henry Grimes and Henry Threadgill were performing as well.
Hat tip to Richard Scheinin on Twitter for linking to Akisakila and kicking off this whole train of thought.