It was starting to feel like we’d seen the last of Cecil Taylor, avant-jazz piano’s most mercurial magus. Recent sightings in New York City have been sporadic; a monthlong Le Poisson Rouge residency scheduled for last June was canceled, as was a fleeting impetus to make his Fort Greene home a museum. Of course, at 83, Taylor has nothing left to prove: He’s a MacArthur Foundation “genius,” a past Guggenheim fellow and an NEA Jazz Master, among sundry accolades. Still, he remains an outlier among jazz lions, an inimitable maverick and a live performer who routinely scales heights unglimpsed by most mortals.
With “A Celebration of the Maestro,” Harlem Stage and Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room join forces to honor Taylor’s living legacy—and happily, the honoree is scheduled to participate. The series starts uptown on Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9 with performances by firebrand poet Amiri Baraka and three younger pianists who’ve internalized Taylor’s lessons: Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn and Amina Claudine Myers.
The action moves to Issue on May 16 for a concert by free-spirited pianist Thollem McDonas and elemental percussionist William Hooker. The series hits its twin peaks on May 17 and 19, when Taylor presents a solo recital in each venue. And in a valedictory offering, Anthology Film Archives screens an evening of rare filmed footage from vintage Taylor performances on May 22.—Steve Smith