Cecil Taylor wins Kyoto Prize

Avant-garde jazz pianist Cecil Taylor, noted for his exploration of free improvisation, has been awarded a 2013 Kyoto Prize for his contribution to arts and philosophy

Avant-garde pianist and pioneer of free jazz Cecil Taylor has been awarded a 2013 Kyoto Prize for his contribution to arts and philosophy.

The international prize, set up by the Inamori Foundation in 1985 and awarded annually in three categories (Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences and Arts and Philosophy), honours outstanding work in fields including music, astronomy and biotechnology.

Often seen as a Japanese equivalent to the Nobel Prize, its laureates are chosen for their contribution to “the progress of science, the advancement of civilization, and the enrichment and elevation of the human spirit”.

Cecil Taylor, who has been recognised by the award as “an innovative jazz musician who has fully explored the possibilities of piano improvisation”, was born in New York in 1929. He studied at the New England Conservatory of Music until 1951, before forming a band with soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy in 1956. The two appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957.

Throughout the 1960s and beyond, Taylor moved away from conventional jazz sounds to explore his own free jazz styles, which involved more percussive rhythms mixed with poetry and sometimes dance, often collaborating with alto sax player Jimmy Lyons.

Taylor, now 84, will be presented with the prize at a ceremony in Kyoto on 10 November 2013, where he will receive a diploma, a gold medal and 50 million yen in prize money.

His fellow laureates are Dr Robert Heath Dennard, awarded in the field of Electronics, and Dr Masatoshi Nei, for his contribution to Basic Sciences.

You can find out more about the Kyoto Prize at the Inamori Foundation.

Sally Evans-Darby

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