Cecil Taylor is the world’s predominant pianist by virtue of his technique, concept and imagination, and one of 20th-21st Century music’s magisterial modernists. A figure through whose challenges I investigate the avant garde in Miles Ornette Cecil — Jazz Beyond Jazz, he turned 80 on March 25 (or maybe on the 15th), and tonight, Saturday, March 28, “Cecil Taylor Speaks Volumes” — and presumably performs solo — at Merkin Concert Hall.
Taylor belongs to no school but his own yet has influenced and generated a legion of followers on piano and every other instrument, too. He identifies with the jazz tradition, many of whose most ardent adherents have regarded him since his 1950s debut insultingly, incredulously, quizzically, disdainfully, reluctantly, regretfully or not at all. But he does not limit himself, or his defininition of the jazz tradition: he draws from all music’s history and partakes of the whole world’s culture.