FORT GREENE – Free jazz pioneer and longtime Brooklyn resident Cecil Taylor passed away last week at his Fort Greene home, his legal guardian confirmed.
“Cecil Taylor was one of the most uncompromisingly gifted pianists in jazz history, utilizing a nearly overwhelming orchestral facility on the piano. While his work has elicited controversy almost from the start, Taylor’s artistic vision never swayed,” the National Endowment for the Arts wrote in a statement on his passing.
Born in 1929 in Corona Queens, Taylor studied at the New York College of Music and the New England Conservatory. Relocating to New York, Taylor performed in a variety of group and solo acts, pushing the edge of traditional jazz into what became known as “free jazz.” Seen by some as an iconoclast, he’s now highly regarded as an innovator.
Taylor relocated to Fort Greene in 1983, where he lived until his death last week. In 2013, Taylor was awarded the prestigious Kyoto Prize for his contributions to jazz music. An unscrupulous contractor purporting to help Taylor defrauded him of the nearly $500,000 prize, but was later caught and sentenced to a few years in jail.
A tireless innovator with no interest in traditional roles of jazz, Cecil Taylor embodied the experimental, boundary-breaking spirit of the borough he adopted for his home. Enjoy some footage of an old interview he gave about the joy of creation and being original: