Top 25 Cecil Taylor Quotes

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“I’m saying that people who are enmeshed in situations of subjugation and have to live, have to find ways to project their dignity as human beings – in spite of all the efforts of those around them to degrade them – I’m saying that this music is the manifestation of the dignity in the life that has always been present.”

― Cecil Taylor

“Rhythm is the life of space of time danced through.”

― Cecil Taylor

“If you take the creation of music and the creation of your own life values as your overall goal, then living becomes a musical process.”

― Cecil Taylor

“You must surrender whatever preconceptions you have about music if you’re really interested in it.”

― Cecil Taylor

“I discovered very early that it wasn’t quite enough for me to imitate people.”

― Cecil Taylor

“To me, the piano in itself is an orchestra.”

― Cecil Taylor

“The quality of life, values that go down to doin’ that, that’s the issue.”

― Cecil Taylor

“I understand about the relative strengths of people, and I don’t think people have to be anything. They can be nothin’ if they want to be.”

― Cecil Taylor

“Mother, being a pianist, told me how to play with my fingers on the piano.”

― Cecil Taylor

“When I came out of the conservatory, the first thing I did was to go see Thelonious Monk.”

― Cecil Taylor

“The first record I made, when I listen to it, I understand. I understand perfectly well why certain musicians were unhappy with me. I had to decide: was I unhappy with me? I liked it. If they didn’t like it, it was on them.”

― Cecil Taylor

“One of the things Mother said to me, ‘You want this, you’re going to practice.’ And I know how to practice.”

― Cecil Taylor

“Fats – very funny man, but every note that he played was like a pearl.”

― Cecil Taylor

“When you play, when you perform, it might be for the last time, so you got to do it.”

― Cecil Taylor

“They say, ‘We will give you money, but we want you to play this or that.’ And I always thought, ‘If I’m going to do that, I might as well go back and be a dishwasher.’”

― Cecil Taylor

“I’ve always tried to be a poet more than anything else. I mean, professional musicians die.”

― Cecil Taylor

“You know what the material is so that you never play it the same way twice.”

― Cecil Taylor

“Find one note on the instrument that pleases you, and then find another note that also pleases you.”

― Cecil Taylor

“Lena Horne – when she walked onstage, she really was Erzulie.”

― Cecil Taylor

“Before he fought Billy Conn, Joe Louis said, ‘He can run, but he can’t hide.’ That’s how I feel about New York: You can run from it, but you can’t hide.”

― Cecil Taylor

“The emphasis in each piece is on building a whole, totally integrated structure. In doing this, we try to carry on – in ensemble as well as solo sections – the mood of a jazz soloist. I mean that principle of kinetic improvisation that keeps a jazz solo building.”

― Cecil Taylor

“Someone once asked me if I was gay. I said, ‘Do you think a three-letter word defines the complexity of my humanity?’ I avoid the trap of easy definition.”

― Cecil Taylor

“I am not afraid of European influences. The point is to use them, as Ellington did, as part of my life as an American Negro.”

― Cecil Taylor

“When you think about musicians who are reading music, my contention has always been the energy that you’re using deciphering what the symbol is is taking away from the maximum creative energy that you might have had if you understood that it’s but a symbol.”

― Cecil Taylor

“What I am doing is creating a language. A different American language.”

― Cecil Taylor
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