AMN Reviews: Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley – Being Astral And All Registers / Power Of Two (2020; Discus Music)

While piano / drum pairings are not that uncommon, Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley practically wrote the book on how to do so with frenetic energy to spare. They collaborated for nearly 30 years, quite frequently as a duo in the early 2000’s. This 2002 recording, from the personal archives of Oxley and apparently unreleased until now, has both in rare form.

Taylor’s percussive style dovetails nicely with Oxley’s jagged rhythms and staggered improvisations. In particular, Taylor’s lines resemble those of a player piano at speed, while Oxley’s cymbal-heavy, hammering approach could easily be mistaken for two or three percussionists. The pair engage in a feverish dialog which rarely lets up across the 33 minutes of Being Astral And All Registers. These relentless walls of notes are complex, manic, and pure joy. Power Of Two slows down and takes a more textural angle, at least during the initial part of its 26 minutes, with more space in Taylor’s powerful chording and Oxley somewhat restrained. Nonetheless, these two cannot hold themselves back and the piece progresses into an endless array of angular and clustered patterns.

Notably, Taylor was in his early 70’s when these performances were recorded, and Oxley was only about a decade younger. But they play with the energy and drive of musicians half their age. Indeed, this workout would give anyone a challenge, including the listener.