R.I.P. Free Jazz Pioneer Cecil Taylor

R.I.P. Free Jazz Pioneer Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor — the American pianist and poet regarded as a pioneer of free jazz — has died. The pianist passed away Thursday evening (April 5) at his home in Brooklyn, according to various online reports. He was 89.

Born in New York in 1929, Taylor began playing piano at age 6, going on to study at the now-defunct New York College of Music and Boston's New England Conservatory. Upon moving back to New York City in 1955, he formed a quartet with soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, bassist Buell Neidlinger and drummer Dennis Charles, releasing his debut LP Jazz Advance the following year.

Taylor's piano playing has been described as energetic and physical, boasting a percussive quality. Influenced by classical composers Béla Bartók and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Taylor's work is also recognized for its significant use of tone clusters.

Taylor released a collection of his poetry on 1987 LP Chinampas, on which he also accompanied himself on percussion. He also demonstrated an interest in dance, once comparing his playing style to "the leaps in space a dancer makes." Taylor composed and played the music for Mikhail Baryshnikov's 1979 ballet Tetra Stomp: Eatin' Rain in Space.

In 2014, Taylor was defrauded out of nearly $500,000 by Long Island contractor Neil Muir, a sum that had been awarded to Taylor for winning the Kyoto prize from Japan's Inamori Foundation. In response, Taylor simply told Muir, "die."

In 2016, Taylor was celebrated with a retrospective exhibit at the Whitney museum in New York, at which he also performed.

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