Happy Birthday, Cecil Taylor

Cecil Taylor: Free Improvisation #3

Happy Birthday, Cecil Taylor

Free jazz pioneer, Cecil Taylor. To hear his music, click the image.

Pianist and poet Cecil Percival Taylor was born March 25, 1929 in New York City. Cecil Taylor started learning piano when he was 6, and continued his studies at the New York College of Music and the New England Conservatory. He began playing in R&B bands as a teenager, and formed his first band with Steve Lacy in 1956 and released their Jazz Advance LP.

Taylor toured and recorded with John ColtraneAlbert Ayler and others. He has also recorded many albums as a solo artist and in various ensembles as a leader. Taylor is also a poet, and often incorporates his poetry into his music and performances. Classically trained, Taylor is generally acknowledged as one of the pioneers of free jazz. His music is characterized by an extremely energetic, physical approach, producing complex improvised sounds, frequently involving tone clusters and intricate polyrhythms. His piano technique has been likened to percussion, for example described as “eighty-eight tuned drums” (referring to the number of keys on a standard piano). He has also been described as “like Art Tatum with contemporary-classical leanings”.

In the early ’60s he began working with Jimmy Lyons, an alto saxophonist whose presence helped keep Taylor’s wild avant-garde music relevant to the jazz audience. During the 1970s Cecil Taylor started playing solo concerts, a number of which were released on album. Cecil Taylor celebrated his 85th birthday in 2014 at the “Celebrating Cecil” tribute concert held in his honor at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia.

Here is an excerpt from the 1981 documentary film “Imagine the Sound” in which he is featured.

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