John Taylor RIP (1942-2015)

TD-John-Taylor-10

The revered and much loved British jazz pianist John Taylor has died after suffering a heart attack while performing at the Saveurs Jazz Festival in Segré, in western France on Friday 17 July. He was resuscitated shortly after the attack but died later in hospital. He was 72. Alyn Shipton pays tribute to this outstanding yet exceedingly humble giant of jazz.

Not long after arriving in London from his native Manchester in 1964, John Taylor (or ‘JT’ as he was known to all his friends and colleagues) dropped into a pub in Highgate to hear a mainstream jazz session. He was working as a civil servant at the time, and playing a regular trio gig in a pub in Bermondsey, but had yet to make many jazz contacts in London. He got chatting to a fellow listener who turned out to be Malcolm Griffiths, the trombonist. This chance meeting led to JT being introduced to John Surman’s circle of friends and colleagues, including Mike Osborne, Harry Miller and Harry Beckett, and before long, the pianist had given up the day job and was working as often as possible with Surman’s various sized bands.

A naturally gifted pianist who combined much of the sensitivity and harmonic richness of Bill Evans into a unique and immediately identifiable solo voice, JT was as at home working as the accompanist to Cleo Laine as he was at the extreme end of the avant garde with Kenny Wheeler. But his lifelong association with Kenny was to lead to some of the most lyrical and adventurous work that both men achieved, whether in Kenny’s Big Band (notably on the ‘Sweet Time Suite’ on Music for Large and Small Ensembles) or in the intimate setting of Azimuth, the trio with Kenny, John and Taylor’s then wife Norma Winstone.

Through the recording connection with ECM, JT became one of the best-known British musicians in Europe, playing and recording with Jan Garbarek, Arild Anderson and Miroslav Vitous among others. His influence spread further through the generations of students he taught at the Cologne academy of music. Although the threads of continuity created a sizeable body of work with Surman and Wheeler, JT’s playing was often at its best in a trio setting. The 1992 Peter Erskine Trio with Palle Danielsson was one such, but perhaps the finest of all was the pairing with Marc Johnson and Joey Baron that followed work with the Dutch trumpeter Erik Vloiemans, and led to the 2002 album Rosslyn and a subsequent UK tour. More recently, JT teamed up again with Palle Danielsson and UK drummer Martin France, and he recently formed the rather less orthodox trio with tenorist Tore Brunborg and drummer Thomas Strønen for the Edition album Meadow.

Over the years, I was privileged to have the opportunity to work with JT on a number of BBC broadcasts, and he was always the most generous of interviewees, with a real depth of thought about his comments and a sincere passion for the music that stayed with him throughout. Few experiences can compare to his glee at experimenting on the mighty organ at Salisbury Cathedral for the broadcast that became the ECM album Proverbs and Songs, with John Surman and the Salisbury Festival Choir. He was chuckling with delight at the power of the 64-foot stop producing a bass sound so strong that it seemed like an earth tremor.

But the evening that stays strongest in my memory is one of those chance meetings in jazz that just worked. When Johnny Griffin played at Cheltenham in the late 1990s, the rhythm section was JT, Steve Argüelles and Dave Green. It was not really the standard hard bop group Griff might have been used to, but the probing excitement of JT’s playing on standards prompted the tenorist into a set as exciting and dazzling as any of his best work, showing JT’s abiding talent as a catalyst for coaxing everyone around him to raise their game and never take anything for granted.

– Alyn Shipton

– Top photo by Tim Dickeson – middle photo by Roger Thomas from a recent gig at the 606 with Julian Argüelles

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Mehldau Marvels At Jazztopad

  The entire spectrum can dazzle at Jazztopad, a Polish festival in...

Read More.....

Jazz FM Awards return for 2019

The Jazz FM Awards return for a sixth time next...

Read More.....

Chick Corea, Madeleine Peyroux and Kamaa…

The organisers of the Love Supreme Jazz Festival, which runs...

Read More.....

Peter Boizot 1929 – 2018

The press obituaries for Peter Boizot, who has died aged...

Read More.....

David Mossman – 17 July 1942 - 8 Decembe…

Ahead of starting the Vortex in 1988, there is nothing...

Read More.....

Greg Fox and Pulverize The Sound punish …

  The second phase of Poland’s Jazz Jantar festival involved five nights...

Read More.....

Astral Progression Ensemble and Irrevers…

  Jazz Jantar has been running in the northern Polish port...

Read More.....

Tippett & Bourne, Liane Carroll and…

The Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival will return for its...

Read More.....

Jessica Radcliffe poised an poetic for R…

In this centenary year of the end of the First...

Read More.....

Iridescent Ibrahim Leads Multi-Horn Boon…

The Barbican's foyer is still resounding to the tumultuous multi-horned...

Read More.....

Maisha raise Afro-futurist spirits at Gh…

Scrolling down the posts on Facebook, from people pleading for...

Read More.....

John McLaughlin and 4th Dimension Back F…

Legendary jazz-rock guitarist John McLaughlin has just announced a return...

Read More.....

Dave Douglas Supergroup Dazzles Among Ho…

  Guimarães is Portugal’s birthplace. Surrounded by verdant hills, this quiet...

Read More.....

Bill Laurance Goes Big At Southbank With…

  At certain moments during this concert, Bill Laurance looks like...

Read More.....

Trans-Atlantic Team-Up: Chicago X London…

Much has been written about the jazz scene that has...

Read More.....

Dalston Devils: Branch and Brandon Lewis…

The Vortex and Cafe OTO are separated by a few...

Read More.....

Mike and Leni Stern light up Ronnie Scot…

What an unexpected pleasure to see Mike Stern exchanging guitar...

Read More.....

22-year-old saxophonist Xhosa Cole wins …

Saxophonist Xhosa Cole has been announced as the winner of...

Read More.....

Braxton and Marclay Broker New Sonic Exp…

  The UK premiere of Anthony Braxton's 'Composition No 103' (1983)...

Read More.....

Delay-gratification – Bill Frisell’s spe…

Bill Frisell isn't much of a talker. The music is...

Read More.....

Snarky Puppy, Jamie Cullum and Gladys Kn…

The first artists have been revealed for next year's Love...

Read More.....

Archie Shepp’s Art Songs & Spiritual…

This evening gets off to a flying start with Simon...

Read More.....

Gregory Porter, Joshua Redman, The Bad P…

The first names have been revealed for next year's Cheltenham...

Read More.....

Billy Harper charges up Church Of Sound

A house of praise is the perfect setting for one...

Read More.....

Ezra Collective Get Sweaty And Prophetic…

  "This is about joy and happiness and celebrating everything that's...

Read More.....

GoGo Penguin: Kings Of The Bill Take Fli…

  The Concorde usually hosts mid-ranking rock bands or popular club...

Read More.....

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio launch Moon Palace…

Fast emerging saxophonist Helena Kay is set to release her...

Read More.....

Ben LaMar Gay Breaks Back Of Chicagoan P…

A wet afternoon in the 'Big Smoke' is brightened by...

Read More.....

Shepp Sharp, Fiery and Free at Enjoy Fes…

The Enjoy Jazz festival is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary...

Read More.....

Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays…

  Lorraine Baker recorded one of the season's freshest sounding releases...

Read More.....

Freestage Stars Ready To Fire Up EFG Lon…

With the full programme confirmed for this year's EFG London...

Read More.....

Sons of Kemet: Kinetic and Chaotic at Ko…

There is already a sense of excitement in the air...

Read More.....

Henri Texier, Denys Baptiste, Ghost Note…

The 37th edition of what is a key date on...

Read More.....

Dave Holland's Aziza Up The Ante At Ronn…

The old joke that the audience will have a chance...

Read More.....

Art Ensemble and Mary Halvorson among th…

The English music critic Richard Williams finished his three-year stint...

Read More.....

A Melting Pot Of Sounds – Pelin Opcin ta…

Alyn Shipton spoke to Pelin Opcin, the EFG London Jazz...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

In the Round is an annual series of intimate performances at the @RoundhouseLDN that sees the venue transformed wit… https://t.co/aakTUMvohk
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Mehldau Marvels At Jazztopad https://t.co/5dh463wBww @Jazztopad @bradmehldau @NonesuchRecords @EspeSpalding… https://t.co/YN3S9PBGRJ
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA