R.I.P. Cecil Taylor…

Dear Editor,

All who have seen Cecil Taylor, like him or not, never forget the experience. Cecil is arguably the greatest pianist to ever live. I think so.

Pianist Cecil Taylor (March 25, 1929 – April 5, 2018), a pioneer of free jazz and icon of the avant-garde for more than half a century, died Thursday evening at his home in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was 89. Taylor’s legacy is his sound: He played the piano with a furious attack, using the entire range of the instrument to create a unique musical language. His approach inspired other musicians and he remained true to it, even though it meant a lifetime of financial struggles. –NYT April 6, 2018.

In a 1964 Tower Records listening booth I had my first exposure to Cecil Taylor. The album was “Live at the Cafe Montmartre,” and about 30 seconds into it I had to turn it off as it made me extremely nervous. About six months later I tried again, and this time I purchased the album. I have been a big fan ever since. What’s the lesson here? Don’t give up.

I saw Cecil Taylor in concert three times, with the first time being in 1966 while stationed in Germany and on leave in Paris.

I learned years later that the experience I had was typical. What happens is a Taylor concert gives one the feeling that time has stopped, as one is no longer in the past or thinking of the future, but in the present moment. It is a beautiful experience.

Mr. Taylor was given a Guggenheim fellowship in 1973, a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award in 1990, a MacArthur fellowship in 1991 and the Kyoto Prize in 2014.

Unfortunately our library does not have any films about Cecil Taylor, but there are videos of him on YouTube… if you want your mind blown.

Some excellent jazz films our library does have: “Chasing Trane, The John Coltrane Documentary,”  “Charles Lloyd: Arrows into Infinity,” “I called Him Morgan,” “One Night with Blue Note: The Historic All-star Reunion Concert,” “Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus,” “Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser.”

Lee Santa

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