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Bang on a Can: When New Music and Jazz Collide

Bang on a Can
Bang on a Can (Courtesy of Peter Serling, 2001)

I was on my way down 42nd Street in search of the unstable compound that results when something called “jazz” and something called “new music” are brought together under pressure in the presence of money. Next to the hulking, stinking Port Authority Bus Terminal, Cecil Taylor would be meeting his new band to prepare for a brief European tour. They were to begin rehearsals for a score Taylor had written as a commission from the Bang on a Can organization. Among the All-Stars’ musicians were accomplished improvisers like clarinetist Evan Ziporyn, classical wizards like pianist Lisa Moore and omnivorous sidemen like electric guitarist Mark Stewart.

But why would a chamber group whose bread and butter is scored composition choose to perform with Cecil Taylor, the legendarily uncompromising co-founder of free jazz? And who gets to define the terms of that meeting?

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