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

…’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!


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