Cecil Taylor, jazz iconoclast, RIP
Pianist, iconoclast, and free jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor died on Thursday (4/5) in his home in Brooklyn. He was 89. His work was hard to classify and sometimes difficult to grasp, but this obituary in The New York Times shines a nice light on Cecil's long career:
For Mr. Taylor, a small and vigorous man who in his prime wore athletic clothing onstage — as if to confirm the notion that the audience was watching a physical workout — albums weren’t merely recording sessions and performances weren’t merely gigs.
At the center of his art was that dazzling physicality and the percussiveness of his playing — his deep, serene, Ellingtonian chords and hummingbird attacks above middle C — which held true well into his 80s.
But in concert he also recited his own poems, whose enjambed lines might describe Aztec architecture, paleoanthropology, crocodile reproduction or a woman’s posture. His motions around the instrument and the bandstand were a part of his performance too.
In his system of writing music, working with bands and performing, he was concerned with what he called, in a 1971 interview with the writer Robert Levin, “black methodology”: oral traditions, music as embodied celebration and spiritual homage.
Rest in peace, Cecil. Your music and influence goes on.