Cecil Taylor, whose intense, lengthy and complex piano improvisations have redefined jazz and redesigned his instrument, has 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.