Kyoto prize to pianist/improviser Cecil Taylor

Cecil Taylor, whose intense, lengthy and complex piano improvisations have redefined jazz and redesigned his instrument, cecilhas been awarded the 2013 Kyoto Prize for “Arts and Philosophy: Music.” Former recipients include Olivier Messiaen, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, György Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, Witold Lutoslawski and Nikolaus Harnoncourt — all musicians/composers of Western European classical lineage. Prizes for individuals who have “contributed significantly to the progress of science, the advancement of civilization, and the enrichment and elevation of the human spirit” have also been announced in the fields of Advanced Technology and Basic Science.

Taylor has previously been honored with Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships, and named an NEA Jazz Master among other awards and prizes. I posted a lengthy appreciation of him on the occasion of his 84th birthday. My personal favorites among Taylor’s approximately 70 recordings include the solos Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! Fly! and Air Above Mountains, and his ensemble masterpieces Unit Structures and Conquistador.

The Kyoto Prize was established by Kazuo Inamori in 1984; Dr. Inamori is also the founder of the  Kyocera Corporation, an international firm dealing in a wide range of products including electronic components and consumer cellular phones and cameras. It is one of the highest honors conferred in Japan. Taylor, a longtime resident of Brooklyn, will be awarded his diploma, 20K gold Kyoto Prize medal and prize money of 50 million yen (approx US$500,000) in Kyoto, November 2013. His next scheduled concert is a solo performance at the Willisau (Switzerland) Jazz Festival, on September 1.

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  1. ron dufour says

    This is a richly deserved for one of the truly great musical, artistic figures of our time.

  2. says

    Thanks Howard, for keeping the music world up to tempo with the oft-times warp speed of Cecil’s music, genius and career. Of course, he’s endured many years of neglect as well.

    Japan, it seems, never neglected him, so this honor is unsurprising but gratifying. It’s always a bit exhilarating to catch Cecil’s updraft again. Few writers help us back into that groove as well as Mr. Mandel.

  3. says

    Cecil is a very hard-working artist. About 13 years ago, he was master artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and (as students) we rehearsed his music at least 4 hours per day, for three weeks.

    When the rehearsals were finished, Cecil would be found in the studio practicing piano for several hours. He was no spring chicken then.

  4. Alex Lemski says

    Now Cecil is “affordable” in performance. Every reason why even at his beautiful age he can be booked at your local whatever, since he’s got that richly reserved bread…Get it?!