Cecil Taylor, a pianist who fashioned his music from myriad styles and sources, died yesterday in New York. He was 89. From his earliest recordings in the mid-1950s with bassist Buell Nieidlinger, drummer Dennis Charles and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, Taylor pursued daring and swam upstream against jazz orthodoxy. This is how critic Ben Ratliff put it in an obituary in today’s New York Times.
At the center of his art was that dazzling physicality and the percussiveness of his playing — his deep, serene, Ellingtonian chords and hummingbird attacks above middle C — which held true well into his 80s.
Affirming that characterization and Taylor’s mastery of piano technique, here he is in a free improvisation in 1981, when he was 48. Close listening discloses those deep chords and a few bebop allusions that may have been whimsical; with Taylor, it was often hard to be sure.
To read all of Ben Ratliff’s comprehensive Taylor obituary—which is full of insights—go here.
Cecil Taylor, RIP.