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

Instant Composers Pool Orchestra goes Dutch with UK and Ireland dates

Instant Composers Pool Orchestra goes Du…

The unique, internationally renowned Instant Composers Pool Orchestra launches Going...

Read More.....
Martin Taylor and Jazz at The Philharmonic concert to save Swanage Jazz Festival

Martin Taylor and Jazz at The Philharmon…

News that this year's 28th edition of the Swanage Jazz...

Read More.....
Nérija, Dinosaur and Jim Mullen among Parliamentary Jazz Award winners

Nérija, Dinosaur and Jim Mullen among Pa…

The 13th annual Parliamentary Jazz Awards took place for the...

Read More.....
Hugh Masekela withdraws from Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya concert due to ill health

Hugh Masekela withdraws from Abdullah Ib…

Revered South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela has announced that, due...

Read More.....
Dee Byrne's Entropi Radiate Amid Rough And Tumble At Kings Place Album Launch

Dee Byrne's Entropi Radiate Amid Rough A…

  The most striking thing about Moment Frozen, the second release from British...

Read More.....
Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach fire-up new Eastside Jazz Club

Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach fire-up …

The opening night of Birmingham's new Eastside Jazz Club featured...

Read More.....
James Taylor And Soweto Kinch Among Poetic Masters Of Rhythm And Rhyme At 2017 Limerick Fest

James Taylor And Soweto Kinch Among Poet…

  The Limerick Jazz Festival continues to spring surprises, and to...

Read More.....
Dave Liebman/Richie Beirach, Christine & Ingrid Jensen and Mark Turner head to Birmingham’s Eastside Jazz Club

Dave Liebman/Richie Beirach, Christine …

Jazz in the Midlands got a huge boost with the...

Read More.....
Mike Gibbs' Dramatic Big Band Birthday Bash A Blast At Birmingham's CBSO Centre

Mike Gibbs' Dramatic Big Band Birthday B…

  In celebration of his 80th year, the composer and arranger...

Read More.....
Mike Carr – 1937-2017

Mike Carr – 1937-2017

Mike Carr, who died on 22 September aged 79, was...

Read More.....
Jazz FM's Sarah Ward, Chris Philips and Nigel Williams up for radio  awards

Jazz FM's Sarah Ward, Chris Philips and …

Two of Jazz FM's longest serving presenters, DJs Sarah Ward...

Read More.....
Joon Moon Exclusive stream of ‘Moonshine Corner’

Joon Moon Exclusive stream of ‘Moonshine…

This year's EFG London Jazz Festival features a performance by...

Read More.....
Westbrook and Wakeman line up with the Uncommon Orchestra for A Bigger Show

Westbrook and Wakeman line up with the U…

Although Mike and Kate Westbrook are based in the West...

Read More.....
Afro-Beat Icon Tony Allen Sups At The Jazz Source For Capital Sidewinding Summit

Afro-Beat Icon Tony Allen Sups At The Ja…

One of the distinguishing marks of the London Jazz Cafe's...

Read More.....
Liane Carroll and Claire Martin play Jazz for Labour in Brighton

Liane Carroll and Claire Martin play Jaz…

Jazz for Labour is presenting multi-award winning singers Liane Carroll...

Read More.....
Pianist Millar Shows Promise At Pizza

Pianist Millar Shows Promise At Pizza

  As the example of Artist Share amply demonstrates, crowdfunding initiatives...

Read More.....
Gustafsson's Vinyl-Collecting Confessions Published

Gustafsson's Vinyl-Collecting Confession…

Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson has trawled the archives of his...

Read More.....
WIN three stunning Bill Evans vinyl LP sets by entering the Jazzwise Reader Survey

WIN three stunning Bill Evans vinyl LP s…

We'd love to know what you think of Jazzwise. We...

Read More.....
Zoe Rahman leads Inner City Ensemble with nine new talents on board

Zoe Rahman leads Inner City Ensemble wit…

Leading UK pianist Zoe Rahman is set to head up...

Read More.....
Makaya McCraven, Ashley Henry RE:ENSEMBLE and Theon Cross Trio unite Chicago and London for International Anthems

Makaya McCraven, Ashley Henry RE:ENSEMBL…

Some of the most exciting names from London and Chicago's...

Read More.....
The Write Stuff adds new qualification for young writers aged 18-25

The Write Stuff adds new qualification f…

This year's Write Stuff music journalism course will return for...

Read More.....
Exclusive stream of ‘I Miss You’ – New single from Wayne Shorter produced seven-piece Holophonor

Exclusive stream of ‘I Miss You’ – New s…

Fast emerging US progressive jazz seven-piece Holophonor are set to...

Read More.....
Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2017 nominees announced

Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2017 nominees …

  The nominees for the 2017 Parliamentary Jazz Awards have been...

Read More.....
John Jack – 1933-2017

John Jack – 1933-2017

John Jack was one of those figures who seem to...

Read More.....
Liane Carroll, Miles Mosley and Seal for Jazz Voice’s tenth anniversary at EFG London Jazz Festival

Liane Carroll, Miles Mosley and Seal for…

The names have been revealed for this year's 10th edition...

Read More.....
Video Exclusive – 'Forlane' from VEIN Plays Ravel

Video Exclusive – 'Forlane' from VEIN Pl…

Swiss piano trio VEIN release their latest album, VEIN Plays...

Read More.....
Denys Baptiste, Mike Gibbs and ICP Orchestra for Turner Sims autumn/winter programme

Denys Baptiste, Mike Gibbs and ICP Orche…

Southampton's Turner Sims concert hall has a bumper crop of...

Read More.....
Nubya Garcia lines up for Steve Reid Innovation showcase – video preview

Nubya Garcia lines up for Steve Reid Inn…

This year's edition of the Steve Reid Innovation showcase will...

Read More.....
Tom Millar Quartet takes Unnatural Events on tour

Tom Millar Quartet takes Unnatural Event…

Pianist and composer Tom Millar starts his autumn tour this...

Read More.....
Hats off for Stetson's big blowout at Brighton's Duke of York

Hats off for Stetson's big blowout at Br…

  Colin Stetson has enough draw to fill this arthouse cinema...

Read More.....
Giovanni Hidalgo fundraiser at Jazz Cafe cancelled

Giovanni Hidalgo fundraiser at Jazz Cafe…

UPDATE: Since this story was first published (here and in...

Read More.....
Walter Becker 1950-2017

Walter Becker 1950-2017

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen may have been two against...

Read More.....
Robert Glasper, Jaga Jazzist and Aron Ottignon added to EFG London Jazz Fest 25th anniversary Line-Up

Robert Glasper, Jaga Jazzist and Aron Ot…

This year's momentous 25th EFG London Jazz Festival, which runs...

Read More.....
Legacies live on as Sidewinder and Coltrane hit silver screen

Legacies live on as Sidewinder and Coltr…

  September can be a quiet month for music fans, after...

Read More.....
Metropole Orkest Modernise Mingus On Prom Night

Metropole Orkest Modernise Mingus On Pro…

Charlie Mingus famously encouraged musicians to play without charts, creating...

Read More.....
Nick Duckett talks about the Harry South The Songbook – “…a British Quincy Jones”

Nick Duckett talks about the Harry South…

Pub conversations can get you in a world of grief...

Read More.....

ABJazzWise


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

Happy birthday to British sax star Tim Garland @EditionRecords @TimGarlandMusic @jazzfm @vortexjazz @KirkdaleBooks https://t.co/bt66XvZ6Da
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@ashleyslater247 Mel B?
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

Sign up to the Jazzwise monthly E-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