Dennis Taylor (musician)

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Dennis Taylor (November 13, 1953 – October 17, 2010) was a Nashville-based musician, arranger and author. Taylor had recording credits on saxophone (alto, tenor and baritone) as well as clarinet, and as an arranger.


New England born, Taylor was best known for his recordings with Delbert McClinton, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Michelle Shocked, Buckwheat Zydeco and many others, and for writing a series of instructional books through Hal Leonard Publishing, in which he discussed blues playing, jazz playing and phrasing.[1] Taylor played on five Grammy nominated albums. He was a two-time nominee for the Nashville Music Awards, "Miscellaneous Wind Instrumentalist of the Year." He appeared on, "Austin City Limits," "The Road," "Country Music Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Celebration," "Texas Connection," "ABC In Concert Country," "American Music Shop," and "Music City Tonight." On April 30, 2010, Taylor appeared on the "Imus in the Morning Program" on national TV and radio. After his solo on the song, "Givin' It Up for Your Love," Taylor's playing earned the attention and praise of host Don Imus. He was also known as a jazz educator. He also analyzed other players' styles and offered tips for emulating and understanding work from the masters of the instrument. Some of the sax legends explained by Taylor include King Curtis, Stanley Turrentine and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. The final part of "Jazz Saxophone" features 17 solos over classic jazz standards (including Doxy, Easy Living, Maiden Voyage and So What) and a wide variety of forms and styles (minor blues, soul jazz, 3/4 time, and bebop). The theory lessons cover all the common major scale, minor scale, dominant, pentatonic chords and scales plus modes, as well as altered dominant scales and diminished options. Taylor also wrote other three other instructional books: Amazing Phrasing, Blues Saxophone and Jazz Saxophone.

Taylor was also an educator, who taught at Johnson State College in Vermont, and taught private saxophone lessons in Nashville until the time of his death. In addition, Taylor volunteer taught at W.O. Smith Music School in Nashville, which provides lessons for students who can not afford regular private lessons, for eighteen of his twenty years in Nashville. He is survived by both of his parents, as well as his wife, Nashville songwriter and publicist Karen Leipziger.

“Pinpointing all these idiosyncratic elements in other players is essential in developing your own voice," wrote Mr. Taylor, whose own sax "voice" could vary from a sensuous growl to the kind of buzzing, bluesy howl he employed on McClinton's "People Just Love To Talk."[1]

Critical book review[edit]

“(In the book Amazing Phrasing) Photos and biographical information are included for each artist along with a demonstration cd recording of Dennis Taylor's written solo. The solos are intended to closely shadow what the original artist would have played. It is obvious that Mr. Taylor has made an exhaustive effort in demonstrating all these many varied styles." – Skip Spratt[2]

Playing style[edit]

“Dennis had an old-school kind of tone that I don't hear in anyone else's playing anymore. He knew how to make it sing, and he had a great sensibility for what was supposed to happen. He knew what to play, and he knew what not to play." – Kevin McKendree[citation needed]

Singer/songwriter Todd Snider said, "He was a free-spirited artist. His playing was so tasteful, and he was such a warm and good person to be around. What a loss.”[citation needed]


Taylor's first solo recording, which received help from Kevin McKendree, also of McClinton's band, was completed shortly before his death. The recording featured saxophone, organ and drums, some of Taylor's original compositions, and also a guest appearance by Delbert McClinton. Details on the release of the recording have not yet been released. He appeared as a side-man on countless albums (see below for partial list).

His solo album, Steppin' Up, featured Taylor on saxophone, McKendree on a Hammond B3 organ, and three different drummers, including former Weather Report drummer Chester Thompson. Delbert McClinton also makes a guest appearance on one song. The album was recorded at The Rock House in Franklin, Tennessee, and is expected to be released in January 2011[dated info] on Kizybosh Records. The official release date was February 15, 2011. The album contained fourteen tunes, ranging from Taylor's original compositions to a Beatles tune.

Published works[edit]

Session work (partial list)[edit]

  • Clarence "Gatemouth" BrownReal Life (Live) CD – 1987 (Horn Arrangements, Tenor Saxophone)
  • Buckwheat ZydecoTaking It Home – 1988 (Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone)
  • Clarence "Gatemouth" BrownStanding My Ground – 1989 (Tenor Saxophone)
  • Buckwheat ZydecoWhere There's Smoke There's Fire – 1990 (Tenor Saxophone)
  • Various Artists – Best of Mountain State Live Vol. 1 – 1991 (Saxophone)
  • Michelle ShockedArkansas Traveller – 1991 (Tenor Saxophone)
  • Clarence "Gatemouth" BrownNo Looking Back – 1992 (Tenor Saxophone)
  • Buckwheat ZydecoMenagerie: The Essential Zydeco Collection, Mango – 1993 Island Records, Inc.[3]
  • Big Mike GriffinGive Me What I Got Comin' – 1993 (Tenor Saxophone)
  • Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown – Timeless, HighTone Records 8174, 2004[4]
  • Earl GainesEverything's Gonna Be Alright, CD – 1998
  • Big Blues Extravaganza! The Best of Austin City LimitsSony Music Entertainment 489928 2 – CD – 1998
  • Roscoe SheltonLet's Work Together (Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone)
  • Eddy ClearwaterReservation Blues – 2000 (Tenor Saxophone, Soloist)
  • Clifford CurryShe Shot a Hole in My Soul Again! – 2001 (Tenor Saxophone)
  • Eddy ClearwaterRock 'n Roll City – 2003 (Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone)
  • Various Artists – Box of the Blues – 2003 (Tenor Saxophone)
  • Robert GordonSatisfied Mind – 2004 (Saxophone)
  • Hacienda Brothers – Hacienda Brothers – 2005 (Guest Appearance, Saxophone)
  • Webb WilderAbout Time – 2005 (Saxophone)
  • Al GarnerGet Out Blues – 2007 (Saxophone)
  • Eddy ClearwaterWest Side Strut – 2008 (Baritone Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone)
  • Mike FarrisShout! Live – 2009 (Clarinet, Saxophone)
  • Clarence "Gatemouth" BrownEssential Recordings: Flippin' Out – 2009 (Tenor Saxophone)
  • Delbert McClintonAcquired Taste – 2009 (Tenor Saxophone)
  • Murali Croyell – Sugar Lips – 2009 (Saxophone)
  • Mark Robinson – Quit Your Day Job – Play Guitar – 2010
  • Duke RobillardNew Blues For Modern Man, Shanachie Records – Shanachie 9017[5]
  • Dennis TaylorSteppin' Up, Kizybosh Records (Saxophone, co-Producer, Composer) – 2011
  • Big Joe and the DynaflowsYou Can't Keep a Big Man Down, Severn Records (Saxophone) – 2011
  • Earl Gaines – You Got the Walk, (Saxophone) – 2011


  1. ^ a b Cooper, Peter. "Stage and session musician Dennis Taylor dies at 56". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Mike Dotterer. "Sax Shed - Playing and Teaching the Saxophone - Dennis Taylor - Blues Saxophone, Jazz Saxophone and Amazing Phrasing". Retrieved November 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ [2][dead link]
  5. ^ "Duke Robillard CD Review". Retrieved November 1, 2014. 

External links[edit]