JOHN TAYLOR 1943-2015
John Taylor was born in Manchester (25th September 1942) and first came to the attention of the jazz audience in 1969 when he partnered saxophonists Alan Skidmore and John Surman. He was later reunited with Surman in the short-lived group Morning Glory and in the 1980’s with Miroslav Vitous’s quartet.
In the early 1970s he was accompanist to the singer Cleo Laine and started to compose for his own sextet. John also worked with many visiting artists at Ronnie Scott’s club and later became a member of Ronnie’s quintet.
In 1977 John formed the trio Azimuth, with Norma Winstone and Kenny Wheeler. The group was described by Richard Williams as “…one of the most imaginatively conceived and delicately balanced contemporary chamber-jazz groups’. The trio made several recordings for ECM Records and performed in Europe, the USA and Canada.
The 1980s saw John working with groups led by Jan Garbarek, Enrico Rava, Gil Evans, Lee Konitz and Charlie Mariano as well as performing in duo contexts with Tony Coe and Steve Arguelles. Composing projects included a commission for the English choir Cantamus with Lee Konitz and Steve Arguelles and pieces for the Hannover Radio Orchestra with Stan Sulzmann.
John was a member of Kenny Wheeler’s quartet and large ensemble and performs in duo and quartet settings with John Surman – their recording of ‘Ambleside Days’ on ahum won critical acclaim. In 1996 John played organ on John Surman's choral work 'Proverbs and Songs' from Salisbury Cathedral, later released on ECM Records. During the 1990s he made several recordings also for ECM with Peter Erskine's trio with Palle Danielsson on bass.
In 2000 John made a new collaboration with Azimuth and the Smith Quartet for the Weimer Festival. Also in that year he recorded 'Verso' with Maria Pia De Vito and Ralph Towner.
John celebrated his 60th birthday year in 2002 with a Contemporary Music Network Tour in which he presented his new trio with the drummer Joey Baron and Marc Johnson on bass. The tour also featured the Creative Jazz Orchestra playing John's composition 'The Green Man Suite'. In July 2002 John received the BBC Jazz Award for 'Best New Work' for this suite.
His trio recording with Marc Johnson and Joey Baron was released early in 2003 and September 2003 saw the release of his solo CD 'Insight' on Sketch. In 2004 John recorded 'Where do we go from Here?' in duo with Kenny Wheeler and 'Nightfall' with bassist Charlie Haden. They subsequently performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Also that year John formed a new trio with Palle Danielsson and Martin France. They performed at the Vancouver Festival and recorded 'Angel of the Presence' for CAM Jazz. This recording was released in January 2006 to coincide with their UK tour and has received critical acclaim.
John was professor of Jazz Piano at the Cologne College of Music since 1993 and a Lecturer in jazz at York University since 2005.
“John was an amazing musician and a special person with great warmth and humility. I feel so honoured and privileged to have known him, performed and recorded with him and learnt so much from him, great times and special memories that I will treasure. He was one of my musical heroes. I first heard JT play when I was a teenager; I bought all his records and listened to them constantly. I vividly remember a master class he gave on a Guildhall Summer School course when I was seventeen that completely blew me away, all this incredible music just pouring out of him. So inspiring! His playing had such depth of feeling and the sound he created from the piano was all his own. John was one of a kind and was a huge inspiration to s many musicians from all generations. I feel very sad that John has been taken from us far too early and still at the peak of his powers creatively, but I know his musical legacy will live on forever. Thanks JT!”
Steinway artist Richard Fairhurst is one of the UK’s leading jazz pianists, composers and educators. He released his first album to critical acclaim when just 19 and has worked with many of the top names in jazz today.
Richard released three albums as leader of the band ‘The Hungry Ants’ which also featured world-renowned saxophonist Iain Ballamy. He won the Pat Smythe award for young musicians of outstanding talent and won a scholarship to study jazz and improvised music at the New School University in Manhattan, New York. He has been a Steinway International Artist since 1998, had a weeks residency at Ronnie Scotts at the age of 20 and in 2000 reached the final of the Montreux Jazz Festival’s Solo Piano Competition.
Since this early success he has gone on to perform all over the UK and at Jazz Festivals worldwide including Jerusalem, Copenhagen, Cologne, Vienna, Glasgow, Cheltenham Jazz festival, Bath festival and Senegal.
He has made numerous appearances on BBC radio programmes such as Jazz On 3, In Tune, Jazz Line-Up and Loose Ends and was selected as one of two artists representing the future of British jazz for a BBC documentary on jazz in the UK. ‘The Times’ newspaper also featured him in their arts column ‘Great British Hopes’.
In 2004 Richard was commissioned to write new music for the Cheltenham International Jazz Festival. He formed a new sextet and this music was released on his fourth album as leader ‘Standing Tall’ which won the prodigious BBC Jazz Award for ‘Best New Work’ in 2004.
As an educator and someone who believes strongly in passing on his skills and teaching young musicians to play Jazz Richard has taught at the Royal Academy of Music, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of music in London. He also designed and set up his own jazz course for younger musicians, which was commissioned by the Richard Attenborough Centre and ran for one year in four separate schools across the Leicestershire area.
Richard released two highly acclaimed duet albums with Berlin based flugelhorn player Tom Arthurs, ‘Mesmer’ (2007) and ‘Postcards From Pushkin’ (2011). The duo has gone from strength to strength with a BBC commission for the City of London Festival and a performance at the BBC Proms in 2009. They also performed at Ronnie Scotts for Jazz on 3‘s programme celebrating Jazz in Britain.
His piano trio recording ‘Triptych’ featuring Danish bass player Jasper Hoiby and New York drummer Chris Vatalaro was released to plaudits in 2009 and Richard continues to write for and perform with this line up.
Most recently Richard has been working in a two piano setting with jazz legend John Taylor. They have performed at the ‘Steinway 2 Pianos Festival’ several times and John invited Richard to perform with him at his 70th birthday concert for the BBC in 2012, the concert was broadcast live on Radio 3’s Jazz Line-up programme. Their new album ‘Duets’ is due for release on Basho Records in 2015.
“When I was invited to become a member of the "Bundesjazzorchester" - the German youth jazz orchestra - during my studies, I had the opportunity to study with John for almost 3 years. Before that time I had listened to his recordings and had been endlessly inspired by transcribing his compositions and improvisations. but nothing had prepared me for meeting this incredibly generous, humorous, warm-hearted and simply wonderful human being - an encounter that profoundly changed my life, not only as a musician. I remember endless improvisations with him on two pianos, discovering the feeling of complete musical freedom, the possibility to play any note at any time; long talks about the piano, composing pieces between concerts, life as a musician ... in a word: these have been some of the most important musical lessons in my life, and given by one of the most encouraging and welcoming teachers imaginable. All I can say is Thank You, John “.
Michael Wollny, born in 1978 in Schweinfurt, internationally successful jazz pianist, musical inventor, unconventional thinker, popular figure. Nobody plays piano like him. His trademark: the unpredictable, the quest for the never-before-heard, the courage to be in the moment, to make the unforeseen sound self-evident. His desire to keep reinventing himself, both in terms of sound and composition; that is what makes him a “consummate piano maestro” (FAZ) and “the biggest (jazz) musician personality that Germany has produced since Albert Mangelsdorff ” (Hamburger Abendblatt ). With “call it [ em ]” he released his celebrated debut which also marked the start for the ACT series “young German jazz”. Since then Michael Wollny accomplished to newly invent himself again and again – solo, with his trio or through collaborations with artists such as Heinz Sauer, Joachim Kühn , the Frankfurt Radio Big Band or the Classical cembalist Tamar Halperin. His last album “ Weltentraum ” with German drummer Eric Schaefer and US-American bassist Tim Lefebvre marks Wollny’s biggest international success until today. The album was selected as Album Of The Year in the annual “ Jazzwise Album of the Year Critics Polls 2014” and Wollny was the first German artist ever to appear on the cover of the magazine. The French " Académie du Jazz" has elected Michael Wollny European jazz musician of the year. In Germany, the album received the prestigious “German Record Critics Award”, reached the “German Jazz Gold Award” in only eight weeks and made it into the official top 50 pop album charts. Michael Wollny has already received the ECHO Jazz four times, the “German Record Critics Award” several times, the “Neuer Deutscher Jazzpreis” , “BMW World Jazz Award”, “SWR Jazzpreis ”, “ Bayerischen Staatspreis für Musik” and many more. Michael Wollny’s new album “ Nachtfahrten ” will be released in October 2015, followed by an extensive tour.
“I first heard John's playing on Julian Arguelles' album 'Phaedrus', and instantly loved the free-wheeling joyousness of John's music making. It's always lovely to hear great musicians as sidemen, as their 'shackles are off' - in that you can hear them focusing their musical energy solely on making music, without worrying about leading the band and all those other distractions. The funny thing about John is that, whatever situation he was in, his shackles were always off! He played with such unbounded joy and heartfelt honesty in every situation, and that has always been the greatest musical lesson I feel I learned from him.
He was an extremely warm and selfless person who would always make time for anyone who wanted to talk to, or play with him. A true gentlemen who had the respect and love of the entire worldwide jazz community as a result.
A few weeks ago I was teaching on a summer school in Sligo, Ireland. During one of the evening tutors' concerts they played a video of him from a couple of years ago, playing a tune to a class in a small classroom. It was one of the most fantastic, committed performances you could ever see - and as we watched this, all the tutors were all standing watching, with a mix of absolute sadness, but massive joy at the amazing music he was making for those children. It felt like the most perfect summing up of everything John gave to us all.
I was fortunate enough to play quite a few duo concerts with John over the last few years, and there was no better an education than to sit facing John and have the best seat in the house on which to enjoy the music pouring and tumbling out. A real privilege and musical experiences I'll never forget. Thank you JT.”
Multi award winning jazz pianist and prolific composer Gwilym Simcock moves effortlessly between jazz and classical creating a sound that is very much his own. He works with orchestras, choirs, big bands, small ensembles and musicians from all areas of music combining through-composed elements with improvisation. Described as a pianist of ‘exceptional’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘dazzling’ ability, he is renowned for his solo performances, releasing a solo album 'Good Days at Schloss Elmau” which was a Barclaycard Mercury album of the year in 2011. His music is widely acclaimed as ‘engaging, exciting, often unexpected, melodically enthralling, complex yet hugely accessible', and above all 'wonderfully optimistic’.
Gwilym's career is unique in spanning a huge range of musical settings. He was the first BBC New Generation Artist from a Jazz background and has performed with orchestras, choirs, big bands, dancers as well as performing with musicians from diverse backgrounds including the classical, jazz, folk and rock traditions. His skills as a composer are in huge demand and he has an impressive catalogue of musical works for all types of ensemble.
Gwilym is often on radio and TV including as guest presenter on ‘Saturday Classics’ on BBC Radio 3, and with the finalists at the first BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Awards on BBC4 TV. Gwilym co-leads Anglo-American Supergroup 'The Impossible Gentlemen', who were voted “Best Eensemble” in the 2013 All Party Parliamentary Jazz Awards. He tours extensively worldwide and is Professor of Jazz Piano at the Royal Academy of Music.
“To me, John and his music are full of joy, humour, exquisite colour, storytelling. His playing made you feel he was speaking directly to you - a truly unique human being.”
Saxophonist and composer Trish Clowes launched ‘Pocket Compass’, her third album for Basho Records, at the EFG London Jazz Festival 2014 alongside the première of her first BBC commission “The Fox, The Parakeet and The Chestnut”, an event which was the culmination of her two years as a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. The album features her quintet and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Trish curates Emulsion, her own cross-genre music festival focusing on new works. She also leads a trio with guitarist Chris Montague and organist/pianist Ross Stanley and Under Your Wing, a song-based project with Mike Walker and Norma Winstone. She plays in the Glow Quartet with Gareth Williams.
Tom has written a lovely piece on his website about John. Here are a few sentences that from that piece:
“Over the next few years John would become the most important person in my musical life....Without really trying, he made me question where I was looking in my efforts to improve my musicianship.....Now he’s gone I know he leaves myself and many, many other musicians unable to count the ways he’s affected their lives. I hope I can repay his constant encouragement to pursue absolute musical goals, not to mention his unflinching generosity in helping open some of the more mundane doors that can nevertheless be very difficult to open. Every note we have of his on record takes on a little extra meaning now that we know there won’t be any more; what we do have, though, is more than enough to sustain anyone for a lifetime”. http://tomhewson.com/2015/07/21/a-farewell/
Tom studied Music at New College, Oxford University, continuing to take a Masters in Jazz Piano at Trinity Laban. In 2012 Tom released a CD of original piano music entitled ‘Slightly Peculiar’ which has received airplay on BBC Radio 3 and JazzFM. Tom was winner of the Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition in 2014 and will be undertaking a tour to include gigs at Ronnie Scotts club as well as abroad and at major venues across the country. He leads his own group ‘Treehouse’ featuring Calum Gourlay and Lewis Wright, who have been performing in London and beyond since 2010.The group went on to be awarded an ‘Emerging Excellence’ award from HelpMusiciansUK in 2014 and signed to European label CAM Jazz for their first album release in the Autumn of 2015, with an album launch at the 2015 EFG London Jazz Festival. Tom also plays and writes regularly with many of the country’s top young jazz musicians in collaborative groups that can be seen at jazz clubs and festivals across the country.
“The first time I saw John play was in the old Vortex in Stoke Newington just before it closed. I remember being awestruck by his touch and sound and went away and bought all the albums I could find at Mole Jazz (before the days of Amazon and Spotify!). For me it was a love affair that grew, through a lot of transcription, study and eventually bringing these along to rehearsals with my own trio. His playing on the Azimuth albums and his solo albums ‘Insight’ and ‘Phases’ in particular were life-changing musically, pointing to a uniquely European way to integrate the worlds of contemporary classical music and jazz, through a profound harmonic and lyric depth – this music spoke to me in a way nothing else has since.
I feel incredibly lucky to have got to know John over the last few years while teaching at Birmingham Conservatoire. We often taught in adjacent rooms, and would meet in our breaks – I brought my own tunes, and he would let me copy his own charts (gold dust!) as well as a number of Pete Saberton tunes (who also taught at Birmingham and sadly passed away a few years ago). He was uniquely personable, positive and encouraging to everyone he met, in particular the younger generation. Only two weeks before he passed, he presented a concert of his music with three bands led by my fourth year pianists. Opening the concert, he played with an extraordinary depth of tone and subtlety, and then in the bar after the concert we sat together and chatted about life and music while he left at regular intervals to buy rounds for the students. RIP John, you’ll be missed”. John Turville is one of the leading pianists and educators on the UK scene. A graduate of Cambridge and the Guildhall, he has since received numerous awards, including the MOJO #3 Jazz Album of the Year (2012), ‘Best Album’ in the Parliamentary Awards 2011, ‘Best Instrumentalist' in the 2010 London Jazz Awards, the 2009 Promoter’s Choice Award (PRS), and was a semi-finalist in the Martial Solal competition in 2010. He has toured and recorded with many of Europe’s leading jazz and tango groups, including the Dave Binney/Julian Arguelles quintet, Tim Garland’s Lighthouse Trio and Acoustic Triangle, the Tony Kofi/Alan Barnes Quintet, Karios 4tet, Asaf Sirkis Trio, Gilad Atzmon, El Ultimo Tango, Transtango, the London Tango Orchestra, London Jazz Orchestra, Guillermo Rozenthuler, Nate James, Matt Ridley Quartet (feat. Jason Yarde), Natacha Atlas and US3. His own trio have released two acclaimed albums on the F-IRE label and toured widely throughout the UK and Europe. Recent engagements include sets at the Barbican, South Bank, Kings Place, Ronnie Scott's, Pizza Express, The Vortex, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester and the Scarborough Jazz Festival. John is also an experienced composer and arranger. He founded, writes for and directs the E17 large ensemble, and has had works commissioned by Manu Delago and ‘Living Room in London’, the Threads Orchestra, the Solstice Quartet and Transtango. He is the visiting jazz piano tutor at Birmingham Conservatoire and has coached jazz ensembles at the Guildhall and Trinity College.
"John had that ability to always sound playful within music that was fiendishly difficult. He was a one off, and a great role model for all of us."
After studying music at Oxford University, and jazz at the Guildhall in London, Liam Noble started to build a reputation of note playing with Stan Sulzmann, Anita Wardell, John Stevens and Harry Beckett. His first CD, a solo entitled “Close Your Eyes” was released in 1994, and contained a mix of standards, originals and improvisations. This mixture of approaches has characterized his music ever since.
In 1997 he joined the Bobby Wellins Quartet, the rhythm section of which continues today as the Liam Noble Trio, recently documented on the 2009 CD “BRUBECK” (Basho Records), gaining an almost unprecedented 5 star review in The Guardian.
In 2001, “In The Meantime”, (Basho Records), explored longer compositional forms and unorthodox improvisational structures, and April 2002 saw a commission from Birmingham Jazz resulting in a song cycle based on Japanese Death Poetry. Noble plays keyboards and samples throughout, marking a new foray into electronica inspired by artists such as Aphex Twin and Arto Lindsay.
In 2004, following a Cheltenham Festival gig the previous year, Liam recorded the acclaimed “Romance Among The Fishes” (Basho Records) with guitarist Phil Robson and the New York rhythm section of Drew Gress and Tom Rainey on bass and drums respectively.
Liam’s working relationship has continued with Tom Rainey in the free improv trio, “Sleepthief” with Ingrid Laubrock, with an album released in September 2008, and a second, “The Madness Of Crowds” in 2011. Other frequent collaborators have included Christine Tobin, Paul Clarvis and Julian Siegel. His growing reputation as a free improviser has also resulted in recent performances with Mary Halverson, Marc Ducret, Mat Maneri, Evan Parker, Okkyung Lee and Peter Evans.In June 2011 he was featured on a recording by Zhenya Strigalev with Larry Grenadier, Tim LeFebvre and Eric Harland. His newest project is an expanded trio with Chris Batchelor and Shabaka Hutchings.
As a kind of summation of the diverse areas in which he works combined with a compositional eye for structure, this new group was highly praised at its premiere performance at the Cheltenham Jazz festival in 2012.
His newest recording is a solo CD “A Room Somewhere” (Basho Records), which features an eclectic mix of improvisations, as well as versions of music by Edward Elgar, Joe Zawinul and Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Liam holds posts as Lecturer in Jazz at Birmingham Conservatoire and Trinity College of Music. He has published 4 volumes of transcriptions of the Bill Evans Trio, and a book of original compositions “Jazz Piano; An In Depth Look at the Styles of the Masters”, both published by Hal Leonard.
"John was really encouraging to all musicians, and was a real positive force for the music, as well as being a very nice person. His playing has had a huge effect on the music, and had a huge effect on me too. His willingness to always really improvise and take risks was something I found very inspiring, and something I will miss very much."
Having studied at both the Purcell School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music (where he is now an Associate), Kit began playing and living in London age 18 - meeting and playing with peers such as drummer James Maddren (who plays in 'The Enemy'), saxophonist Tom Challenger (who he now plays with in 'Wedding Music'), guitarist Chris Montague and drummer Josh Blackmore (who make up 'Troyka') - as well as elder more established musicians such as saxophonist Stan Sulzmann (whom Kit still plays with in Stan's band 'Neon'), and drummers Seb Rochford and Clark Tracey. Kit performed throughout the UK, Europe and America with many of them (with both Julian Arguelles' group and 'Empirical' touring Canada and America - with Empirical playing at Newport Jazz Festival - the first UK group to do so for a long time), and also guested with some of the leading bands in the UK around this time - 'Fraud', Acoustic Ladyland', 'Micachu', as well as playing with some of his heroes - Lee Konitz, Django Bates (in a special commission for Jazz on 3) and Leafcutter John. Kit has toured with his own group and similarly with Troyka, throughout Germany, Austria, Norway and Italy. He received a BBC Jazz Award for his work with Empirical, a British Jazz Award for his work with his own band and his Trio album 'Golden' (Basho Records) was a Barclaycard Mercury Album of the Year in 2010. Kit went on to release two more highly acclaimed albums on Basho - “Quiet Tiger” and “Light From Old Stars”. He now tours with 'Tricko' (with cellist Lucy Railton), Troyka, Julian Argüelles' Quartet, Wedding Music (a church organ collaboration with Tom Challenger), Sarah Gillespie, Thomas Stronen and Sylvain Darrifourq. In 2013 he was nominated in the Rising Star category in Downbeat Magazine. He is currently working with Aldeburgh Music on a residency with Tom Challenger, working on a commission for the Cologne Philharmonie, recording for ECM with Thomas Stronen, teaching at the Purcell School of Music, and helping curate the programme for the South Tirol Jazz Festival. He recently released his fourth album 'Tricko' on Coup Perdu records – a series of duets with cellist Lucy Railton.
I was first introduced to John's music as a student when my teacher Michael Garrick would whip out these wonderful piano duets of John's. I loved playing the soaring melodies and the hugely colourful harmony - Michael would sit there grinning, nodding his head and saying, "Yes. Yes. Yes.", as if to say "It really is!".
I got to know John's music more in subsequent years and have always been amazed by the depth and clarity of his playing, and in all kinds of settings, with all sorts of different musicians and instrumentation. His sound and his musical ideas seem to sing through - he is very clearly one of the true originals, somebody who made the piano sound like himself, if that makes sense. I can't claim to have known John well, but on every occasion we met he was great company - fun, generous and generally 'up for it' - whether that was drinking into the night, playing piano duets, both...
It was a huge shock to hear of his passing, years before his time, and I'm extremely grateful to have been able to been around him and his music while I could. He will not be easily followed.
Tom Cawley is one of the UK’s leading jazz pianists. He has performed worldwide with some of the country’s leading artists, most notably Peter Gabriel, with whom he has also recorded two albums and a live DVD. As well as an award-winning pianist, Cawley is also a composer, bandleader and educator. His group, Curios, won Best Band the 2008 BBC Jazz Awards, and their three albums have been hugely critically acclaimed. Tom regularly leads the house band at Ronnie Scott's club, and he is also a professor of jazz piano at the Royal Academy of Music.
Simon was unable to perform at tonight's show but he talks eloquently about John....
“ Although beauty and melancholy are currently less fashionable than in other eras, they remain a distinguishing characteristic of jazz; but what distinguishes John’s music and makes it so special is that his beauty was not only “beautiful” but revelatory.
Some people point to the influence of Bill Evans in John’s music. Perhaps it is the aesthetic more than the notes. As Bill put it so eloquently, as if for John:
“I believe that all people are in possession of what might be called a “universal mind”. Any true music speaks with this universal mind to the universal mind in all people.”
Thank you John for your life long lesson and the never-ending questions and answers to my soul. I remain star-struck, broken-hearted but eternally grateful”.
Simon’s tribute to John Taylor can be accessed at: www.londonjazznews.com/2015/07/tribute-simon-purcell-writes-about-john.html
Currently the Head of Jazz at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London, internationally acclaimed pianist and educator Simon Purcell originally came to prominence during the UK jazz boom of the 1980s through his band ‘Jazz Train’ (with Martin Speake, Cleveland Watkiss et al), a quartet with Julian Argüelles, numerous appearances with or opposite visiting American artists (such as Bobby Shew, Conrad Erwig) at London's Bass Clef Club and occasional weeks at Ronnie Scott's.
As a passionate music educator and thinker, Simon's musicianship increasingly served educational ends, contributing to the development of jazz education in the UK (in 2006 he was awarded Jazz Educator of the Year by the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group.)
Simon’s playing embodies the influences of pianists who formed the jazz vocabulary such as Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner, as well as the great British pianists John Taylor and Pete Saberton whom he sites as major influences. His quintet recently appeared at Ronnie Scott’s Club and his debut CD (“Red Circle”) has received widespread acclaim.
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