Cecil Taylor

Cecil Percival Taylor was an American jazz musician and composer, and the leading icon of free-jazz pianists from the 1950’s until his death in 2018.

From his first recording, Jazz Advance (1956), Taylor was known as an uncompromising musical radical. He received high critical acclaim for his avant garde approach that combined modern classical and jazz, and Taylor played the piano as if it were a percussion instrument. He became a virtuoso pianist with a unique range of dynamics, attacks, and harmonic resources, including many tone clusters never heard in jazz before.

Taylor was one of the first musicians to free up jazz improvisation from fixed harmonic structures. Instead, anything was fair game harmonically. He led the way for freedom of expression with open improvisations.

His mastery of improvised form was unprecedented in jazz; he used an extensive repertoire to develop simple material into dense, complex, extended, but structurally unified works. His repertoire consisted of original works, some composed of broken materials in successions of unrelated tempos.
In the late 1960s, he worked most often with ferociously fast tempos and long improvisations lasting 30 minutes or longer, and in his later work, he steadily expanded his emotional range.

Taylor’s career spanned more than 50 years. He recorded dozens of albums and remained musically productive into his 80s.

Cecil Taylor passed away April 5, 2018.

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