Jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor has died, it has been confirmed.
The avant-garde musician passed away at his home in Brooklyn on Thursday evening (April 5) according to NPR. He was 89 years old.
Taylor was born in Corona, Queens on March 25, 1929, and began playing piano at the age of six. He studied at the New York College Of Music and Boston’s New England Conservatory. He went on to form his own band in 1956 after performing in other swing and R&B groups in the early ’50s.
He released his debut album as a bandleader, ‘Jazz Advance’, in 1956, writing three original songs for the record. He went on to release a further 74 albums as leader in his career, including live recordings, with the most recent being 2009’s ‘The Last Dance’.
Taylor collaborated with the likes of John Coltrane and Max Roach throughout his career, and was widely recognised as a pioneer of the free jazz sound. He was named an NEA Jazz master in 1990, while he was the subject of a retrospective at New York gallery The Whitney Museum of American Art.
No cause of death has currently been confirmed for Taylor. Fans of the musician have begun paying tribute to him online.
“Cecil Taylor was a revolutionary artist who pushed jazz piano to its outer reaches,” wrote one. “He was fearless. He was bare knuckled intellect and raw heart.”
Another recalled seeing him perform where “some people walked out”. “I felt like they realised they didn’t deserve something this pure,” they wrote. “He got even better after they left, too.” See those and more tributes below.
Cecil Taylor was a Revolutionary artist who pushed jazz piano to it’s outer reaches. He was fearless. He was bare knuckled intellect and raw heart. He built an international audience completely outside of the constraints & vagaries Of Fashion. Cecil Taylor was a True American.
— Vernon Reid (@vurnt22) April 6, 2018
The two times I saw Cecil Taylor play, some people walked out during it, and it felt like they realized they didn't deserve something this pure. He got even better after they left, too.
— Marc Masters (@Marcissist) April 6, 2018
Seeing Cecil Taylor live was like learning a new language on the fly. Rewired yr brain. pic.twitter.com/PUJoUE85Vp
— R. Emmet Sweeney (@r_emmet) April 6, 2018
nooooooo… cecil taylor… thank you so much for everything you brought into the world and staying true until the last years… your presence will be resonating for a long long time to come… playing with you was absolutely one of the highlights of my life… rest in peace…
— (((okkyung lee))) (@okkyunglee) April 6, 2018
Thanks to Cecil Taylor for his creative courage and his uncompromising vision of what music can be. We mourn his passing but celebrate his life.
— Dave Holland (@TheDaveHolland) April 6, 2018
RIP Cecil Taylor. No music like this music; seeing him play in Cambridge when I was in high school changed my understanding of music. It also scared me. pic.twitter.com/sJRBTBuaK1
— Paradise of Bachelors (@pofbachelors) April 6, 2018
8 years ago I drove 9 hours to Albuquerque just to watch Cecil Taylor play for maybe 30 minutes. It was a powerful spiritual quest and I am richer for it and for all of his art. My hero. R.I.P. pic.twitter.com/PgOWZbMB8q
— Bret Saunders (@Bretontheradio) April 6, 2018
Cecil Taylor was one of those musicians who seemed to exist beyond jazz. Beyond music. Beyond our little planet. I discovered his work in college. It was a little frightening – "what is happening?" The energy. Explosions of sound. His work was spellbinding. Rest in peace, sir.
— Tom Vasquez (@TVasquez) April 6, 2018