Cecil Taylor

American poet and pianist Cecil Percival (March 25, 1929 – April 5, 2018,) Taylor, who is classically trained, is widely recognized as one of the pioneers in free jazz. Taylor’s music is marked by an energetic, physical approach. His music often features complex improvised sounds and tone clusters. His piano technique is often compared to percussion. He has been described as having “eighty-eight tuned drummers”, which refers to the number keys on a standard piano. He has also been described as “like Art Tatum with contemporary-classical leanings”. Taylor was born in Corona, Queens, New York City. Taylor was the only child of a middle-class family. His mother encouraged him to start playing music as a young age. Taylor began playing the piano at six years old and continued his studies at the New York College of Music as well as at New England Conservatory. Taylor studied composition and arranging at the New England Conservatory. He also learned about contemporary European art music during his time at the New England Conservatory. His music was influenced notably by Stockhausen and Bartok. Taylor moved to New York City in 1955 from Boston. He formed a quartet that included Steve Lacy (soprano saxophonist), Buell Neidlinger (bassist), and Dennis Charles (drummer). Jazz Advance, Taylor’s 1956 debut recording, featured Lacy. Cook and Morton describe it in the Penguin Guide to Jazz as “While there are still a few nods to traditional post-bop form in the set, it already points to freedoms in which he would later immerse myself.” The 1957 Newport Jazz Festival saw aylor’s Quartet with Lacy. This album was also made. In 1958, he collaborated with John Coltrane (Stereo Drive), which is now available as Coltrane Time. In the 1950s and 1960s Taylor’s music became more complex and departed from jazz standards. Taylor’s long-form performance style was often difficult to find gigs and his inability to communicate effectively with club owners made it difficult to conduct business. The 1959 album Looking Ahead! showcased Taylor’s creativity as a creator, in contrast to the mainstream jazz music. Taylor used virtuosic techniques to make quick stylistic changes from one phrase to the next, which was a departure from other jazz musicians of that time. These are just a few of the many distinctive characteristics Taylor’s music has retained today. Also, landmark recordings like Unit Structures (1966) were made. The Unit was a platform that allowed musicians to create new forms of conversational interplay. Uncredited Albert Ayler, who was not credited, worked briefly with Taylor in the 1960s. He jammed and appeared on at least one recording, Four. It was unreleased until 2004. Taylor began working with Jimmy Lyons, an alto saxophonist, in 1961. This was one of his most significant and consistent collaborators. Taylor, Lyons, Sunny Murray (and later Andrew Cyrille), formed The Unit’s core group until Lyons’s death in 1986. Lyons’s music, heavily influenced by Charlie Parker’s jazz style, maintained a strong blues sensibility, which helped to keep Taylor’s avant-garde music tied to jazz tradition. In the second half the sixties, Taylor began performing solo concerts. The first recorded solo performance by Dutch radio was “Carmen With Rings” (59 minutes). In Rotterdam’s De Doelen concert hall on July 1, 1967. Taylor had performed the same composition two days earlier in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Many of the later concerts were recorded and released on album. These include Indent (1973), side 1 of Spring of Two Blue J’s (1973), Silent Tongues(1974), Garden (1982), For Olim (87), Erzulie Maketh Soap (1989), and The Tree of Life (191998). His popularity grew as he played for Jimmy Carter on the White House Lawn and lectured at universities. He was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship in 1991. In the early 1990s Taylor formed the Feel Trio with William Parker (bass), Tony Oxley (drums). The group can be heard on Celebrated Blasts, Looking (Berlin Version), The Feel Trio, and the 10-CD set 2T’s for A Lovely T. The Feel Trio was more in line with European free improvisation than his previous small groups. He performed with large ensembles and large-band projects. The German label FMP documented his extended stay in Berlin in 1988, which resulted in a huge boxed set that included performances in duet or trio by a wide range of European free improvisors including Oxley and Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and Tristan Honsinger. His later recordings were mostly released on European labels with the exception of Momentum Space, which was a meeting with Dewey Redman (and Elvin Jones), on Verve/Gitanes. Bridge, a classical label, released Taylor’s 1998 Library of Congress performance Algonquin. It features a duet featuring Mat Maneri as violin. Taylor performed for large audiences all over the globe with live concerts. He often played his favorite instrument, a Bosendorfer Piano that has nine additional lower-register keys. Chris Felver released a documentary called All the Notes on DVD in 2006. In an earlier documentary, Imagine the Sound (1981), Taylor discussed and performed his music, poetry, and dance. Taylor did not record much in the 2000s but continued to perform with his own bands (the Cecil Taylor Ensemble, the Cecil Taylor Big Band), as well as other musicians like Joe Locke, Max Roach and Amiri Baraka. All About Jazz nominated the Cecil Taylor Big Band performance at the Iridium 2005 as the best performance of 2004,[29]. The same award was given in 2009 to the Cecil Taylor Trio at Highline Ballroom in 2009. The trio was Taylor, Albey Balgochian and Jackson Krall. Taylor died in 2018. An autobiography was being prepared, as well as additional concerts and other projects. Triple Point Records released a limited edition double-LP entitled Ailanthus/Altissima. It was a limited edition deluxe double LP. The album, which was titled Ailanthus/Altissima Bilateral Dimensions of Two Root Songs. This was a collection of duos recorded live at New York’s Village Vanguard. He was awarded the Kyoto Prize for Music in 2013. His career and 85th birthday were celebrated at Philadelphia’s Painted Bride Art Center with the tribute concert “Celebrating Cecil”. He was the subject of a Whitney Museum of American Art retrospective entitled “Open Plan: Cecil Taylor” in 2016. Amiel Courtin Wilson’s documentary “The Silent Eye”, which featured Taylor and Min Tanaka, was made in 2016. Taylor was also a keen dancer and pianist. Although he was only a child, his mother was a dancer who also played the piano and violin. Taylor once stated that he tried to mimic the dancer’s leaps of space on the piano. He collaborated with Dianne McIntyre, a dancer in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He also composed the music for a 12-minute ballet called “Tetra Stomp” in 1979. It featured Mikhail Baryshnikov, Heather Watts, and Charles Olson. His poems were often incorporated into his musical performances. They also frequently appear in the liner notes to his albums. Leo Records released the CD Chinampas in 1987. It features Taylor reading several of his poems and accompanying himself with percussion. Steven Block claims that free jazz was born from the performances by Cecil Taylor in the Five Spot Cafe in 1957, and Ornette Coleman (1959). Taylor founded the Jazz Composers Guild in 1964 to increase the possibilities for avant-garde musicians. Taylor’s style has been called a ‘constructivist’. Scott Yanow warned Taylor about Taylor’s “forbidding” music. However, he praises Taylor’s “remarkable technique u0026 endurance” and his “advanced”, radical”, original, and uncompromising “musical visual vision.” This vision is one Taylor’s greatest influences on others. I was able to stop thinking about chords when I played with Taylor. I had been trying to imitate John Coltrane, but it was unsuccessful. This made me more chord conscious. Archie Shepp, quoted by LeRoi Jones in album liner notes for Four for Trane, Impulse A-71 (64). Stanley Crouch, a jazz critic, criticized Taylor for being gay in 1982. This prompted an angry response. However, Taylor never denied it. Taylor said to a New York Times reporter in 1991 that “[s]omeone ever asked me if [I]m gay.” I replied, “Do you think that a three-letter word can define the complexity of my humanity?” I steer clear of the easy definition trap. Taylor moved to Fort Greene in Brooklyn in 1983. Taylor was buried at his Brooklyn home on April 5. 2018. at the age of89.

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