Apr 8, 2018
I can’t say that I often turned to the music of Cecil Taylor when I wanted something to listen to. To me, Taylor, one of the three great avant-garde pioneers (along with Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane) did not make music that was in any way welcoming or accessible. But what he did do, often playing his piano as anything other than an instrument capable of melody, opened up worlds of possibilities for two generations of jazz musicians.
I wandered through the retrospective “Open Plan: Cecil Taylor” at the new Whitney Museum in New York a few years back, and was amazed at the breadth of his work – from solo piano to large ensemble to collaborations in poetry, film and especially dance. He wrote poetry himself, and integrated it often in his live performances. From the late Fifties and early Sixties small groups; to his solo piano performances in the late Sixties and early Seventies; to his Big Bands in the past decades, Taylor never seemed to repeat himself, or fail to push the musical envelope further and further. His passing last week in his home in Brooklyn, NY at the age of 89 marks the end of a long and influential era in jazz.
Podcast 618 is a far from complete overview of Taylor’s music, mostly from live performances found in the epic box set of his solo piano recordings made in Berlin thirty years ago. Musical selections, some edited, include:
“The Great Bear”
“Stone Parts 1-3”
“The Old Canal”
“Stone Part 4”