When he emerged during the mid-to-late 1950s, pianist Cecil Taylor was considered perhaps the most radical improviser in jazz. More than a half-century later, that is still true. His atonal improvisations, which are full of remarkable energy and endurance, tone clusters and completely original ideas, have been a major influence on the jazz avant-garde and free jazz movements for decades. Born in New York City in 1929, he began piano lessons when he was 6. Taylor attended the New York College of Music and the New England Conservatory. Influenced early on by Duke Ellington’s percussiveness and Dave Brubeck, Taylor worked with Johnny Hodges and Hot Lips Page in the early 1950s. In the mid-1950s he formed a quartet with soprano-saxophonist Steve Lacy, bassist Buell Neidlinger and drummer Dennis Charles with which he made his recording debut, performed at the Five Spot Café in 1956 for six weeks, and appeared at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival.
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