A Long Island man has been arrested for gaining the trust of Brooklyn-based jazz great Cecil Taylor and stealing nearly $500,000 from the 85-year-old.
According to records obtained by Gothamist, 54-year-old Noel Muir of Nassau County befriended the elderly Taylor while working as a contractor on a house next door to the performer’s home in Fort Greene. Apparently, Muir became such good friends with Taylor that he was invited to accompany him to Kyoto, Japan where the jazz legend was awarded the $500,000 Kyoto Prize by the Inamori Foundation for his seminal 1959 album, Jazz Advance.
While in Japan, Muir somehow tricked the foundation into depositing the prize money into a bank account he controlled, saying it was going to the Cecil Taylor Foundation, says District Attorney Ken Thompson. Between June 2013 and sometime this year, Muir stole $492,722.55 from the account.
Along with Ornette Coleman, Mr. Taylor is recognized as one of the pioneers of the Free Jazz movement, which he kicked off in 1957 at the now-shuttered Five Spot Café on Bowery. In the years since, Taylor has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur “Genius” grant and recently celebrated his 85th birthday with a massive tribute at Philadelphia’s Painted Bride Art Center.
Meanwhile, the decidedly less gifted Mr. Muir has been charged with second-degree grand larceny and could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
Follow Nikita Richardson on Twitter @nikitarbk