Avant-garde jazz pianist and composer Cecil Taylor died at his Brooklyn home Thursday evening. He was 89. A polarizing figure during the jazz heyday of the 50s and 60s due to his frenzied and untraditional playing style, Taylor helped to pioneer the free jazz genre along with Ornette Coleman. His avant-garde style has influenced countless musicians and left an indelible mark on the jazz as a whole.
Let’s face it, Cecil Taylor’s music isn’t what you put on the hifi to unwind after a long day at work— google the pianist and composer and you’ll find words like frenzied, cacophonous, and “acquired taste” used to describe his particular brand of free jazz, a genre he pioneered – along with Ornette Coleman—during late-’50s performances at the legendary Five Spot Café on the Bowery.
A little over a year after Sun Ra’s centenary celebration, the far-out work of the jazz musician, poet, and Afro-futurist who taught us that “space is the place” is still alive and well. Case in point, these two upcoming chances to take a trip to Saturn.
Ornette Coleman was buried in Woodlawn Cemetary a little over a week ago, following a memorial service attended by Pharoah Sanders, Cecil Taylor and other fellow luminaries of avant-garde jazz. But even if his final resting place is in the Bronx, the free-jazz pioneer was very much a creature of downtown. At one point he even owned a Lower East Side school building, and you can watch him amble through it in a documentary that will be shown at Spectacle next week as part of “Something Else: A Celebration of Ornette Coleman on Film.”