The question that continues to haunt his art is: What precisely is he doing and why must he do it with such intensity and at such length? . . . [He] is a threat, a heretic in the cathedral of music, who questions such fundamental issues as harmonic improvisation, swing, and endurance - his and the audience's. At the time of his debut on records, jazz was mired in harmonic labyrinths. [He]was one of the few musicians who saw no reason that chord progressions could not be replaced by spontaneous invention within the confines of the composed music. In questioning the cyclical blues and song structures on which jazz improvisation was based, he inevitably had to wonder why rhythm sections were cast primarily as timekeepers and not as equal participants in an ensemble's inventions. . . . He devised a way that worked for him, not necessarily for anybody else.
Of his work, Branford Marsalis intoned the thought-killing "self-indulgent bullshit". All artists, worth their salt, are self-indulgent. Why else would they be doing what they're doing if they weren't indulging their passions, their sense of fun and play, of love and pain, of loss and hope, pouring it out through their fingers, their tongues upon reed or mouthpiece, through their hands on the drum kit? The problem with this artist, however, is that he challenged every single assumption of western music - tonality and melody, harmonic integrity and rhythmic cohesion - in the very music he played. He wrote no tracts, penned no manifesto; he let hour-long semi-improvisational pieces do the talking. He is not for background music for reading or lovemaking. He is not for dancing or caterwauling. He is, simply put, Cecil Taylor.