Avant-Garde Pianist Cecil Taylor Dies at 89

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Cecil Taylor (1929–2018)

(Photo: Carol Friedman/DownBeat Archives)

Avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor has died at the age of 89, according to NPR.

Taylor, a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, who was described by the organization as “one of the most uncompromisingly gifted pianists in jazz history, utilizing a nearly overwhelming orchestral facility on the piano,” reportedly died at his home in Brooklyn on Thursday. He was inducted into the DownBeat Hall of Fame via the 1975 DownBeat Critics Poll.

Leading groups beginning in the late 1950s—and frequently accompanied by bassist Buell Neidlinger, who died March 16—he slashed through the established language of jazz, pushing the music to a tipping point with albums like 1966’s Unit Structures. He continued playing and recording into the 2010s, and inarguably influenced a raft of top-tier contemporary pianists.

A full obituary will be posted to the DownBeat website in the coming days. DB



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