Personalities | Cecil Taylor | Sixties | Jazz & Blues
(Piano, b. 1929)
Since the late 1950s, pianist Cecil Taylor has maintained a prime position in the pantheon of free jazz. He was one of the first jazzmen to jettison standard chord changes, fixed rhythms and expected ensemble roles in the interest of musical democracy. Taylor developed his unorthodox style while studying at New England Conservatory. Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Lennie Tristano were among his major influences. Taylor debuted in 1956 with Jazz Advance!.
He treats the piano as a percussion instrument, hammering out dissonant chords and long, sinuous melody lines, and has been both condemned and praised for his innovations. Besides leading magnificent ensembles – the best of which featured alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons – and collaborating with artists ranging from Mary Lou Williams and Max Roach to the dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, Taylor is also a commanding solo performer. He is tirelessly adept at forming beauty out of seeming chaos, and his performances can last for hours.
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