One New Year’s Eve, long ago, I was wandering around with friends and noticed a small handwritten sign on the door of Saint Peter’s Church on Lexington Avenue. I went to look—TEN THIRTY P.M.: CECIL TAYLOR FREE CONCERT. It was 10:15. We walked in. There were about thirteen, fourteen others there, a mix of jazz fans, retired postmen, and churchgoers, all spread out in various pews. There was a Steinway grand set up on the altar. At ten thirty sharp, Cecil Taylor appeared, sat down, and began playing with cheerful gravity. The music was so small at first that it seemed like it was in miniature, but slowly it grew until it filled the church to overflowing, and the joy was contagious. People were laughing, and the sound kept expanding until we could hardly stand it. A few minutes after midnight, Taylor stopped for a moment, took off his sunglasses, and bowed his head. “Happy New Year!” he said. “To all of us. Everyone. Happy New Year.” And then he continued playing.
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