Cecil Percival Taylor, born March 25, 1929, is an American pianist and poet. Classically trained, Taylor is generally acknowledged as one of the pioneers of free jazz. His music is characterised by an extremely energetic, physical approach, producing complex improvised sounds, frequently involving tone clusters and intricate polyrhythms. His piano technique has been likened to percussion, for example described as "eighty-eight tuned drums" (referring to the number of keys on a standard piano). He has also been compared to "Art Tatum with contemporary-classical leanings." Taylor began playing piano at age six and studied at the New York College of Music and New England Conservatory. After first steps in R&B and swing-styled small groups in the early 1950s, he formed his own band with soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy in 1956. Taylor's first recording, Jazz Advance, featured Lacy and was released in 1956. It is described by Cook and Morton in the Penguin Guide to Jazz: "While there are still many nods to conventional post-bop form in this set, it already points to the freedoms which the pianist would later immerse himself in." Taylor's Quartet featuring Lacy also appeared at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival. He collaborated with saxophonist John Coltrane in 1958 on the album Stereo Drive. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Taylor's music grew more complex and moved away from existing jazz styles. Gigs were often hard to come by, and club owners found Taylor's approach to performance (long pieces) unhelpful in conducting business. Landmark recordings, like Unit Structures (1966), appeared. With 'The Unit', musicians developed often volcanic new forms of conversational interplay. In the early 1960s, an unaccredited Albert Ayler worked for a time with Taylor, jamming and appearing on at least one recording, Four , unreleased until 2004. By 1961, Taylor was working regularly with alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, one of his most important and consistent collaborators. Taylor, Lyons and drummer Sunny Murray (and later Andrew Cyrille) formed the core personnel of The Unit, Taylor's primary group effort until Lyons's premature death in 1986. Lyons' playing, strongly influenced by jazz icon Charlie Parker, retained a strong blues sensibility and helped keep Taylor's increasingly avant-garde music tethered to the jazz tradition. In the 1970s Cecil Taylor often played live as a solo performer and many recordings of such gigs were released on album. In 1978 he played on The White House lawn in front of President Jimmy Carter. He continued to gig throughout the 80s and formed the Feel Trio in the early 1990s with William Parker (bass) and Tony Oxley (drums). Although Cecil s activity has been sparse in recent years, now well into his eighties he still occasionally performs with his Cecil Taylor Ensemble. In 2013 he was awarded the prestigious Kyoto Prize for Music. Cecil Taylor is also a poet, citing Robert Duncan, Charles Olson and Amiri Baraka as major influences. He often integrates his poems into his musical performances, and they frequently appear in the liner notes of his albums. The CD Chinampas, released by Leo Records in 1987, is a recording of Taylor reciting several of his poems, accompanying himself on percussion. This 5 disc set includes all the recordings released by Taylor between 1956 the year of his recording debut and 1962, the period which, for most of his audience, contains the finest work this maverick musician ever produced.