Jimmy Lyons (December 1, 1931 – May 19, 1986) was an alto saxophone player. He is best known for his long tenure in the Cecil Taylor Unit. Lyons was the only constant member of the band from the mid-1960s until his death in 1986. Taylor never worked with another musician as frequently as he did with Lyons. Lyons' playing, influenced by Charlie Parker, kept Taylor's avant-garde music tethered to the jazz tradition.
|Birth name||James Lyons|
|Born||December 1, 1931|
Jersey City, New Jersey
|Died||May 19, 1986(aged 54)|
|Genres||Jazz, free jazz, avant-garde jazz|
|Labels||Black Saint/Soul Note|
|Associated acts||Cecil Taylor|
Lyons was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and raised there until the age of 9, when his mother moved the family to Harlem and then the Bronx. He obtained his first saxophone in the mid-1940s and took lessons from Buster Bailey.
After high school, Lyons was drafted into the United States Army and spent 21 months on infantry duty in Korea. He then spent a year playing in army bands. Once discharged he attended New York University. By the end of the 1950s, Lyons was supporting his interest in music by working for the United States Postal Service.
In 1961, Lyons followed Archie Shepp into the saxophone role in the Cecil Taylor Unit. His post-Parker sound and strong melodic sense became a defining part of the sound of that group, from the 1962 Cafe Montmartre sessions onwards.
During the 1970s Lyons also ran his own ensemble, with bassoonist Karen Borca and percussionist Paul Murphy. They often performed in the loft jazz movement around Studio Rivbea. Lyons' group and Cecil Taylor Unit continued a parallel development throughout the 1970s and 1980s, often involving the same musicians, including trumpeter Raphe Malik, bassist William Parker and percussionist Murphy.
In 1976, Lyons performed in a production of Adrienne Kennedy's A Rat's Mass directed by Cecil Taylor at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in the East Village of Manhattan. Musicians Rashid Bakr, Andy Bey, Karen Borca, David S. Ware, and Raphe Malik also performed in the production. Taylor's production combined the original script with a chorus of orchestrated voices used as instruments.
- 1969: Other Afternoons with Lester Bowie, Andrew Cyrille, Alan Silva (BYG Records)
- 1979: Push Pull (Hathut Records)
- 1980: Riffs with Karen Borca, Jay Oliver, Paul Murphy (hat MUSICS)
- 1980: Jump Up / What To Do About with John Lindberg, Sunny Murray (Hathut Records)
- 1981: Something in Return with Andrew Cyrille (Black Saint Records)
- 1982: Burnt Offering with Andrew Cyrille (Black Saint Records)
- 1983: Wee Sneezawee with Karen Borca, Raphe Malik, Paul Murphy, William Parker (Black Saint Records)
- 1985: Give It Up with Karen Borca, Paul Murphy, Jay Oliver, Enrico Rava (Black Saint Records)
- 2003: The Box Set (5 CD compilation, limited edition) (Ayler Records)
- 2014: The Complete Remastered Recordings On Black Saint & Soul Note (5 CD compilation) (Black Saint Records)
With Andrew Cyrille
With Eddie Gale
With Cecil Taylor
- Into the Hot
- Student Studies
- Spring of Two Blue J's
- Dark to Themselves
- Cecil Taylor Unit
- 3 Phasis
- Live in the Black Forest
- One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye
- It Is in the Brewing Luminous
- The Eighth
- Winged Serpent
- The Great Concert of Cecil Taylor
- Unit Structures
- Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come
With Joel Futterman
- In-Between Position(s)
- Inner Conversations
With Paul Murphy
- Red Snapper: Paul Murphy At CBS (CIMP, 1982)
- Cloudburst: Paul Murphy at RCA (Murphy Records, 1983)
- Kelsey, Chris. "Jimmy Lyons" AllMusic.com.
- Young, Ben (2003), Jimmy, Ayler Records, pp. 4–6.
- Young (2003), Jimmy, pp. 9–10.
- Jost, Ekkehard (1975). Studies in Jazz Research: Free Jazz. Universal Edition. p. 78. ISBN 3-7024-0013-3.
- Litweiler, John (1984). The Freedom Principle: Jazz after 1958. New York: Da Capo Press. pp. 208–220. ISBN 0-306-80377-1.
- La MaMa Archives Digital Collections. "Production: Rat's Mass, A (1976)". Accessed August 8, 2018. Archived May 17, 2018, at the Wayback Machine