According to a Reuters report, jazz pianist Cecil Taylor was the victim of a bank transfer scheme last year that cost him the Inamori Foundation’s Kyoto Prize. Described as “an international award to honor those who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of mankind,” it is worth nearly $500,000 — money Long Island contractor Noel Muir allegedly wired to his own MCAI Construction account after befriending Taylor and accompanying him at the award ceremony in Japan last November. If convincted of grand larceny charges, Muir faces up to 15 years in prison.
“The defendant befriended Mr. Taylor and won his trust,” district attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement, “which later made it easier for him to allegedly swindle this vulnerable, elderly and great jazz musician.”
Taylor’s eighty-fifth birthday was marked this past March with a special “Celebrating Cecil” concert at Philadelphia’s Painted Bride Art Center. Saxophonist/curator Bobby Zankel had this to say about his music in the lead-up to the event: “He came up with the concept of playing jazz, playing black, African-American, traditional music, in a way where there’s no meter. It’s not an odd-meter, it’s not a mixed-meter, it’s non-metrical … That’s the thing that I got from Cecil — that I felt like I could do anything, that I had unlimited potential to express myself, that I had unlimited ability to feel empathy with other people, that I had unlimited ability to find joy in living, even in as hard times as we live in. And I would like to be able to share that feeling of limitless possibility.”