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Thoughts on Cecil Taylor

April 6th, 2018 | 1 Comment | Categories: Musing on Music |

Listening to this and thinking about Cecil Taylor. His legacy, his choices, his extraordinarily personal take on music.

He’s someone whose choices inspired me for many decades. When I first heard that he chose to wash dishes rather than capitulate to the way the clubs that would book him wanted him to play, it literally changed the path of my music career. He’s an avatar for choosing the hard road. Choosing a path like that is not a one-off choice that you tell your friends about to make yourself look like some bad-ass. To be as accomplished a musician as Cecil was, and still choose to keep your music as a sacred thing not to be messed with just to pay the bills, is an extraordinary commitment. It’s not like he couldn’t have played standards as well as anyone if he’d wanted to – he even recorded a bunch of standards later in life – but he saw something as bigger than the status of being ‘full time in music’.

I spent a lot of years thinking that being full time was the aim. Cecil’s witness was a huge part of me getting past that point and realising that the music was way too important to make it bland just to get a gig. It’s a position that’s put me at odds with some of the places I’ve worked, and it’s a lesson that I’ve had to relearn a bunch of times, but thinking I could make my music ‘fit’ (and I’ve always been happy to play other people’s music as a ‘job’, and do the occasional function band – it’s just my own creative path that I’ve been more protective of) – but thanks to what I gleaned from Cecil’s path, I’m still doing the thing I do, finding the places where it fits, and refusing to screw it up to fit some booker’s idea of what I ought to be doing. I do WAY fewer gigs than I otherwise might, but Cecil is there to illuminate the long game.

RIP, Cecil – you influenced a huge amount of people, made some extraordinary music, and I’m materially less well-off because of your example, but infinitely happier with my creative choices. Thank you x

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/apr/06/cecil-taylor-free-jazz-pioneer-dies-age-89-new-york-pianist-avant-garde

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One Comment so far ↓

  • erica mccool

    “…keep your music as a sacred thing not to be messed with just to pay the bills…”
    “… it’s just my own creative path that I’ve been more protective of…”
    yes, and yes!
    pure gold right there…
    RIP Cecil, and TY for those deep reflections,
    Mr. Lawson.