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Cecil Taylor

Biography

A giant among the jazz avant-garde, Cecil Taylor's first forays into free improvisation predate even those of Ornette Coleman. His dizzying, explosive frenzies seem to reference every twentieth century style of piano playing imaginable, from pounding boogie-woogie to Debussy-esque impressionism. In his early, Bebop-derived explorations, he reveals a keen, unorthodox rhythmic sensibility. And for those of you who don't believe that the piano can actually function as a percussion instrument, listen to Taylor attack the keys. Taylor's primary accomplice was alto sax virtuoso Jimmy Lyons, but the pianist would sometimes play solo. And when he put together a larger group, the results were often stunning, as on the 1966 classic LP featuring drummer Andrew Cyrille, Unit Structures. Taylor could even make room for another pianist in his seemingly overabundant flurries of notes—listen to his duets with the highly underacknowledged Mary Lou Williams.
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