Jazz50 | Jazz Advance: Cecil Taylor Tribute Concert

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

Among NEC’s many prominent alumni, Cecil Taylor stands out for his influence over the history of jazz.

Taylor’s significant legacy will be recognized with a series of piano solos featuring NEC faculty and alumni Ran Blake, Bruce Brubaker, Ethan Iverson, Matthew Shipp and Dan Tepfer. Completing the program will be Dominique Eade, Ruth Lepson, Joe Morris & ensemble, and the NEC Jazz Orchestra with works by Cecil Taylor and Steve Lacy.

Pre-Concert Panel Discussion

There will be a pre-concert panel discussion, open to public, at 5 p.m. in Brown Hall.

About Jazz50

Jazz50 celebrates the vibrant legacy and future of Jazz Studies at NEC—the first fully accredited jazz program at a music conservatory, and a global leader in jazz education today. Join us in Boston and New York to hear the NEC faculty, alumni, and students who are shaping the next 50 years of jazz. See all Jazz50 events

Notes on the Program from Ken Schaphorst

Cecil Taylor graduated from New England Conservatory in 1951 at the age of twenty-two with a diploma from NEC’s Popular Music Department, predecessor to today’s Jazz Studies Department. And he made his first recording, Jazz Advance, in Boston five years later with two men who later taught at NEC, Steve Lacy (2002-2004) and Buell Neidlinger (1967-1971). That said, Taylor was ambivalent about his association with NEC. In A.B. Spellman’s Four Lives in the Bebop Business, Taylor is quoted as saying “I learned more music from Ellington than I ever learned from the New England Conservatory.” 

Some of Taylor’s ambivalence towards NEC may be credited to the problematic relationship between jazz and academia during the time of his study, when many conservatories were openly hostile towards jazz. In addition, many jazz players were suspicious of conservatory training and Taylor’s critics would often describe his approach as being more European than American. But Cecil Taylor eventually reconciled with NEC, receiving an honorary doctorate in 1977, leading a residency in 1991 and performing in the 100th Anniversary of Jordan Hall Celebration in 2003. 

Of all of the many NEC prominent alums, Taylor certainly stands out as being one of the most influential. When he passed away last year at the age of 89, Taylor had been a pioneer of free jazz and an icon of the avant-garde for well over a half century. In the New York Times obituary, Ben Ratliff wrote “He was a supreme example of an uncompromising artist, arguing — mainly through his work, but in principled and prickly interviews as well — against reductive definitions of what a musician of his training and background could or should do.” Although Taylor was initially ostracized by many jazz promoters, earning a living at times washing dishes and working at a dry cleaners, his persistence and dedication paid off, eventually leading to Guggenheim, NEA Jazz Master, and MacArthur Fellowships, in addition to winning the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy in 2013. 

NEC is proud of its association with Cecil Taylor, and happy to dedicate this evening's performance to his memory. 

  1. Bruce Brubaker/John Cage: Before Dream/Dream

  2. Matthew Shipp: 2-X-Z

    • Matthew Shipp, piano
  3. TBA

    • Dan Tepfer, piano
  4. Victor Young and Ned Washington: Stella By Starlight

  5. Ethan Iverson: Showdown

  6. TBA

  7. Zero Hour

  8. Joe Morris: Morning Group

    • Alison Burik, alto saxophone
    • Chi Wei Lo, piano
    • Joe Morris, guitar
    • Zach Lavine, bass
    • Mario Fabrizio, drums
  9. Ruth Lepson: Poetry

  10. Rain

    • NEC Jazz Orchestra
  11. Cecil Taylor: Bulbs

    • NEC Jazz Orchestra
NEC: Brown Hall

A pre-concert panel discussion and reception leading up to a concert in honor of prominent alumnus Cecil Taylor. Your RSVP is appreciated.