John Taylor 1942-2015

So sad to hear of the loss of one of the most individual and influential musicians for my whole generation.

So many beautiful and moving tributes on social media and elsewhere, here’s my facebook post and below a link to the Guardian obituary

…..it’s difficult to take in that JT is no longer with us. His musical genius was obvious. A brilliant and uncompromising worldclass pianist and composer, always pushing to the limit as an improviser, melodically beautiful and so lyrical, harmonically lush and truly exquisite as an accompanist (Think Norma Winstone, Kenny Wheeler for starters!)

As influential as he was musically (I agree with Liam Noble here, no one touched him!) it was as much his open minded vibe and curiosity that inspired me. His interest and generous support for younger musicians had no sense of competition.I remember thinking in my early 20’s,”That’s how I’d like to be when I’m older!”

I first met John at the Guildhall Summer School in the mid 1980’s.I was a fledgling Jazz tutor (having only just left college myself) and John and Norma’s annual duo concert always felt like a masterclass in creativity. I remember a recurring conversation about the relative values of a teaching ‘method’ versus an open approach.John would say,”Next year, I’ll have a method”. He never did. Needless to say, neither have I.

One of the first playing experiences with him was in the mid 1990’s on a project organised by Nick Purnell, that included Kenny Wheeler, Julian Arguelles, Mike Walker,Steve Arguelles and Oren Marshall. It ended up being a very open, improvised situation. I was playing accordion and cello, and in the middle of a hectic dense texture, suddenly the whole band dropped out leaving a cello and piano duo. Another lesson in accompaniment followed, where whatever note I played, John made it sound great! It was only a 2 minute episode(before I suddenly stopped thinking” Shit, I’m playing a duo with JT and it sounds OK so far), but several times when we met later, we would recall our ‘moment’. As an accompanist it’s something I’ve been trying to do (with varying degrees of success) ever since….

Last saw John with Palle and Martin at Brecon Cathedral in 2014, as part of Brecon Jazz Festival. Having played an amazing energetic trio set, effortlessly reinventing his own classics and Kenny’s tunes; he was as friendly and humble as ever backstage. We talked briefly about some of our mutual friends, and he said how pleased he was that I seemed to be doing well.

Not only an inspirational musician, but a hero for many of us.

We’ll love you always JT!

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jul/19/john-taylor

New Collaboration with Catrin Williams

Thanks to a grant from the Arts Council of Wales, Catrin and I were able to spend a few days last week working on a new  interactive collaborative project. For those of you that don’t know about Catrin Williams, she is a visual artist based in Pwllheli, North Wales. Her website is here. We have previously worked together on the Bysedd Lliw/Coloured Gloves project in 2009, and since then have taken numerous workshops for all ages throughout North Wales. Always fun, and always different, these sessions focussed on making marks influenced by the music that I created; often followed by me ‘playing’ back the image as a graphic score.

Catrin was also kind enough to allow me to use part of one her works for my Hermeto+ album cover

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Catrin uses her own musical background in the collaboration, listening intently and often joining in vocally. In fact for me, working together often feels like creating a duo (much as you would with a singer or another instrumentalist)

The new collaboration is based around a similar creative impulse, only using an ipad instead of traditional paper/paint materials. Over the course of three days we were able to explore a number of different approaches and meeting points. The images below are very much ‘work in progress ‘, but I hope to document the whole process on the blog.  Some of the initial starting points musically were free improvisation,Bach and inevitably Hermeto Pascoal.(Hermeto ++ anyone?!)

All images © Catrin Williams 2015

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Part of the beauty of these collaborations is the discussion that goes alongside the creative process – as you might imagine, we found many similarities and analogies between improvised music making and intuitive mark making. For instance there are well documented observations on line,form, texture, colour, etc; which the language of music also shares. But what about more fundamental aspects such as process? Some interesting parallels here-Catrin saying at one point that she is never thinking of the final image whilst engaged in the process.

We also explored other ways of looking at the technology – for instance instead of using a blank canvas, we could start with a photograph, previous image, or as you can see in one of the examples below, a scan of one of my sketches for a new piece. Another approach was to return to paper and traditional materials, make an improvisation (I do miss the sound and physical intensity of this!) then make a scan and use that as a basis for the next piece.

A real mix of old and new worlds! More to come in early September including  some live performances with the art projected cinema size…hopefully some video and audio of new music as well.

Stay tuned!

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September Update:

Following another period of working at the wonderful (and for this project – Perfect!) Theatr Harlech, we have been further exploring our approach to this collaboration. In particular we have been looking at how to present our work most effectively as a performance. Having the art projected onto a cinema size screen was amazing and literally jaw dropping! Also finding a way of using the Ipad wirelessly opened up a whole new dimension to the performance. We made an informal presentation in Harlech to some local primary school children and make our first (low key) public performance in Bangor on Sept 4th. More images below and video clips to follow!

Stay Tuned!

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And here as promised is a short video clip from the collaboration in action at Bangor’s Blue Sky Cafe in September 2015.

The music is an original composition called “Cowbois and Shepherds”, lighting projection and video by Greg Byatt.