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John Taylor (jazz)

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John Taylor
Taylor in 2008
Taylor in 2008
Background information
Born(1942-09-25)25 September 1942
Manchester, England
Died17 July 2015(2015-07-17) (aged 72)
Segré, France
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instrument(s)Piano, organ, synthesiser
Years active1969–2015

John Taylor (25 September 1942[1] – 17 July 2015)[2] was a British jazz pianist, born in Manchester, England,[1] who occasionally performed on the organ and the synthesizer. In his obituary, The Guardian described him as "one of the great jazz pianists and composers of his generation" and at a musical level comparable to Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner and Brad Meldhau. [3]

Early life[edit]

John Taylor was a self-taught pianist.[1] With his family, he moved from Manchester, first to the Midlands and then to Hastings where he played locally. In 1964, Taylor became a civil servant, moved to London and became involved in the free jazz scene.[4]

Performing career[edit]

Taylor first came to the attention of the jazz community in 1969, when he partnered with saxophonists Alan Skidmore and John Surman.[5] He was later reunited with Surman in the short-lived group Morning Glory and, in the 1980s, with Miroslav Vitous's quartet.[1]

In the early 1970s, Taylor was accompanist to the singer Cleo Laine and started to compose for his own sextet.[1] He also worked with many visiting artists at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, and later became a member of Scott's quintet.[1]

In 1977, Taylor formed the trio Azimuth, with Norma Winstone and Kenny Wheeler.[1] On some of the group's recordings, Taylor played synthesiser and organ. 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[6] and performed in Europe, the US and Canada.

The 1980s saw Taylor working with groups led by Jan Garbarek,[1] Enrico Rava, Gil Evans, Lee Konitz[1] and Charlie Mariano, as well as performing in duos with Tony Coe and Steve Argüelles. Composing projects included a commission for the English choir Cantamus Girls Choir with Lee Konitz and Steve Argüelles and pieces for the Hannover Radio Orchestra with Stan Sulzmann. Taylor also performed on David Sylvian's song "Laughter and Forgetting", on which Kenny Wheeler also featured.

From 2006, Taylor was a member of Kenny Wheeler's quartet and large ensemble and performed in duo and quartet settings with John Surman; their recording of Ambleside Days on ahum won critical acclaim. In 1996 Taylor played organ on 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, Taylor made a new collaboration with Azimuth and the Smith Quartet for the Weimar Festival. Also in that year, he recorded Verso with Maria Pia De Vito and Ralph Towner.

Taylor celebrated his 60th birthday in 2002 with a Contemporary Music Network Tour, in which he presented his new trio with drummer Joey Baron and Marc Johnson on bass. The tour also featured the Creative Jazz Orchestra playing Taylor's composition "The Green Man Suite". In July 2002, Taylor received the BBC Jazz Award for 'Best New Work' for this suite.

Taylor's trio recording with Johnson and Baron was released early in 2003, and September 2003 saw the release of his solo CD Insight on Sketch. John Fordham wrote in The Guardian: "This is one of contemporary jazz's great performers at work ... a beautiful solo statement by a very modest star."[7] In 2004, Taylor recorded Where Do We Go from Here? in duo with Kenny Wheeler and Nightfall with bassist Charlie Haden. They subsequently performed at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Also that year Taylor formed a new trio with Palle Danielsson and Martin France. They performed at the Vancouver Jazz 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.

Keyboard style[edit]

While Taylor's unique piano style drew on the whole of the jazz pallette and considerable influence from classical music, his approach was characterised by a sophisticated and advanced rhythmic and harmonic sensibility. Rhythmically he specialised in asymmetrical meters and in employing "drumming" patterns on the keyboard. Harmonically, he significantly developed and expanded the harmonic vocabulary of musicians such as Bill Evans and Gil Evans.[2]


Taylor was professor of Jazz Piano at the Cologne College of Music from 1993 onwards, and became a lecturer in jazz at University of York[8] in 2005. He coached and taught undergraduate jazz musicians and was of central importance to the new master's degree jazz pathway and in advancing doctoral research and performance in jazz.


Taylor was married to jazz vocalist Norma Winstone from 1972[1] until their divorce. The couple had two sons:[9] Leo Taylor, a drummer with indie rock band The Invisible; and Alex Taylor, a singer-songwriter. John Taylor was married to Diana (née de Courcy) until her death in 2004 from cancer, and his subsequent marriage to childhood sweetheart Carol Weston, lasted for the rest of his life.


Taylor died on 17 July 2015, following a heart attack he suffered while performing at the Saveurs Jazz Festival in Segré, France. Although he was resuscitated at the venue, he died after being taken to hospital.[2]


As leader[edit]

Date Line-up Album title Label Notes
1971 octet w/ Norma Winstone, Stan Sulzmann, John Surman, Kenny Wheeler, Chris Pyne, Chris Laurence, Tony Levin Pause, and Think Again Turtle produced by John Surman; re-released 1995 on FMR
1973 John Taylor Trio w/ Chris Laurence, Tony Levin Decipher MPS/BASF cd released in Japan in 1998, remastered in 2000 and again in 2016; German reissue in 2017 by edel
1991 John Taylor Trio w/ Mick Hutton, Steve Argüelles Blue Glass Ronnie Scott's Jazz House live recording
1992 w/ John Surman Ambleside Days Ah Um
1992 solo Solo Sentemo
2001 w/ The Creative Jazz Orchestra (octet w/ Julian and Steve Argüelles a.o.) Exits and Entrances Oh No!
2002 w/ Kenny Wheeler, Riccardo del Fra Overnight Sketch
2003 w/ Marc Johnson, Joey Baron Rosslyn ECM
2003 solo Insight Sketch
2005 solo Songs and Variations CAM Jazz
2005 w/ Steve Swallow, Gabriele Mirabassi New Old Age EGEA
2005 w/ Palle Danielsson, Martin France Angel of the Presence CAM Jazz
2007 w/ Palle Danielsson, Martin France Whirlpool CAM Jazz recorded 2005
2009 solo Phases CAM Jazz recorded 2006
2011 w/ Palle Danielsson, Martin France Requiem for a Dreamer CAM Jazz recorded 2008
2012 w/ Palle Danielsson, Martin France Giulia's Thursdays CAM Jazz recorded 2006
2014 solo In Two Minds CAM Jazz recorded 2011
2015 w/ Alex Taylor, Oren Marshall, Leo Taylor 2081 CAM Jazz recorded 2014

With Norma Winstone and/or Kenny Wheeler[edit]

Date Artist Album title Label
1972 Norma Winstone (w/ large ensemble) Edge of Time Argo
1973 Kenny Wheeler (w/ large ensemble) Song for Someone Incus
1977 Azimuth Azimuth ECM
1978 Azimuth The Touchstone ECM
1979 Azimuth with Ralph Towner Départ ECM
1984 Kenny Wheeler (quintet) w/ Mike Brecker, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette Double, Double You ECM
1985 Azimuth Azimuth '85 ECM
1985, 1996 Norma Winstone, Kenny Wheeler, Paolo Fresu, John Taylor, Paolo Damiani, Tony Oxley Live at Roccella Jonica Ismez/Polis, Splasc(H)
1987 Norma Winstone (trio) w/ Tony Coe Somewhere Called Home ECM
1987 Kenny Wheeler Quintet w/ Stan Sulzmann, Dave Holland, Bill Elgart Flutter By, Butterfly Soul Note
1990 Kenny Wheeler (feat. Norma Winstone a.o.) Music for Large and Small Ensembles ECM
1990 Kenny Wheeler Quintet w/ John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Peter Erskine The Widow in the Window ECM
1992 Kenny Wheeler (tentet; JT on three of seven tracks) Kayak Ah Um
1994 Azimuth How It Was Then... Never Again ECM
1997 Kenny Wheeler (quartet w/ Joe LaBarbera, Riccardo del Fra) All the More (rec. 1993) Soul Note
1997 Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Norma Winstone w/ The Maritime Jazz Orchestra Siren's Song Justin Time
1999 Norma Winstone & John Taylor (duo) Like Song, Like Weather (rec. 1996) Koch Jazz
1999 Kenny Wheeler (w/ large ensemble) A Long Time Ago ECM
2001 Kenny Wheeler (trio w/ Gabriele Mirabassi) Moon Egea
2002 The Maritime Jazz Orchestra feat. Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Norma Winstone Now and Now Again (rec. 1998) Justin Time
2005 Kenny Wheeler (duo) Where Do We Go from Here? CAM Jazz
2005 Kenny Wheeler (quartet w/ Chris Potter, Dave Holland) What Now? CAM Jazz
2011 Kenny Wheeler w/ Hugo Wolf String Quartet Other People CAM Jazz
2011 Kenny Wheeler (trio) w/ Steve Swallow One of Many CAM Jazz
2012 Kenny Wheeler Big Band The Long Waiting CAM Jazz
2013 Kenny Wheeler (sextet w/ Stan Sulzmann, Bobby Wellins) Six for Six (rec. 2008) CAM Jazz
2015 Kenny Wheeler (duo) On the Way to Two (rec. 2005) CAM Jazz

As co-leader and sideman[edit]

Line-ups in brackets indicate that names or format are not mentioned on the album front cover. Recordings with artists without wiki entry (for the most part), and the seldom guest appearances were not included. For initial alphabetical order of artists reload the page.

Date Artist Album title Label
1981 Arild Andersen w/ Bill Frisell, Alphonse Mouzon A Molde Concert ECM
1975 Neil Ardley, Ian Carr, Mike Gibbs and Stan Tracey Will Power - A Shakespeare Birthday Celebration in Music Argo
1991 Julian Argüelles (quartet w/ Mick Hutton, Martin France) Phaedrus Ah Um
2014 Julian Argüelles (quartet w/ Dave Holland and Martin France) Circularity CAM Jazz
2013 Pierluigi Balducci w/ Paul McCandless & Michele Rabbia Blue from Heaven Dodicilune
2017 Pierluigi Balducci, Paul McCandless & Michele Rabbia Evansiana Dodicilune
1970 Harry Beckett (octet w/ Surman, Osborne, Skidmore, Ricotti, Laurence a.o.) Flare Up Philips
1971 Harry Beckett (sextet) Warm Smiles RCA Victor
1972 Harry Beckett's S & R Powerhouse Sections (septet) Themes for Fega RCA Victor
2009 Tore Brunborg, Thomas Strønen (trio) as Meadow Blissful Ignorance Hecca
1993 Ian Carr (duo w/ JT organ) Sounds and Sweet Airs (That Giveth Delight & Hurt Not) Celestial Harmonies
2015 Hayden Chisholm (trio w/ Matt Penman) Breve Pirouet
1970 Graham Collier (tentet) Songs for My Father Fontana
1970 Mike Cooper (w/ Alan Skidmore, Mike Osborne a.o.) Trout Steel Dawn
1972 Paolo Damiani's Musica Mu(n)ta Orchestra (w/ Lindsay Cooper, Gianluigi Trovesi, Fresu, Lauren Newton, Winstone a.o.) Annìnnìa Ismez/Polis
1972 John Dankworth Big Band Full Circle Philips
1998 Maria Pia de Vito (quintet w/ Gianluigi Trovesi) Phoné Egea
2000 Maria Pia de Vito, Ralph Towner (trio) Verso Provocateur
2000 Maria Pia de Vito (w/ Towner, Swallow, Patrice Héral) Nel respiro Provocateur
1978 Martin Drew Band (quintet w/ Bill Le Sage, Brian Smith a.o.) British Jazz Artists Vol. 3 Lee Lambert
1979 Jon Eardley (quintet w/ Pete King, Mickey Roker a.o.) Namely Me Spotlite
1992 Peter Erskine (trio) w/ Palle Danielsson You Never Know ECM
1993 Peter Erskine (trio) w/ Palle Danielsson Time Being ECM
1994 Peter Erskine (trio) w/ Palle Danielsson As It Is ECM
1999 Peter Erskine (trio) w/ Palle Danielsson Juni ECM
1983 Gil Evans (w/ Surman, Sulzmann, Don Weller, Ray Russell a.o.) The British Orchestra Mole Jazz
2006 Mark Feldman What Exit ECM
1993 Paolo Fresu (trio) w/ Furio di Castri EncontroS Egea
1977 Jan Garbarek Places ECM
1978 Jan Garbarek Photo with Blue Sky, White Cloud, Wires, Windows and a Red Roof ECM
1971 Mike Gibbs (big) Band Tanglewood 63 Deram
1972 Mike Gibbs (big band) Just Ahead Polydor
1993 Mike Gibbs Orchestra (w/ Wheeler, Evan Parker, Charlie Mariano, Swallow a.o.) By the Way Ah Um
2018 Mike Gibbs (big) Band (feat. John Scofield w/ Wheeler, Argüelles, Tony Coe, Swallow, Bill Stewart Symphony Hall, Birmingham 1991 Dusk Fire
2004 Charlie Haden (duo) Nightfall Naim
1970 Don "Sugarcane" Harris (w/ Volker Kriegel, Tony Oxley a.o.) Keep on Driving MPS/BASF
1988 Lee Konitz (duo) Songs of the Stars Jazz House
1971 Volker Kriegel (quintet) Spectrum MPS/BASF
1972 Volker Kriegel (octet w/ Albert Mangelsdorff, Eberhard Weber a.o.) Inside: Missing Link MPS/BASF
1973 Volker Kriegel (septet w/ Weber, Zbigniew Seifert a.o.) Lift! MPS/BASF
1971 Cleo Laine with the John Dankworth Quartet Cleo Laine in Australia World Record Club
1973 Bobby Lamb and the Keymen (tentet) Bobby Lamb and the Keymen BBC
2011 Marilyn Mazur w/ Josefine Cronholm & Anders Jormin Celestial Circle ECM
1991 Nick Purnell (big band w/ Wheeler, Gibbs, Argüelles, Django Bates, Erskine a.o.) Onetwothree Ah Um
1987 Enrico Rava (quintet w/ Bruce Ditmas a.o.) as Rava Secrets Soul Note
1971 Frank Ricotti & Michael de Albuquerque (quintet) First Wind Pegasus
1977 Ronnie Scott's Quintet Serious Gold Pye
1969 Alan Skidmore Quintet Once Upon a Time Deram
1970 Alan Skidmore Quintet TCB Philips
2003 Tommy Smith Sextet (w/ Joe Lovano, John Scofield, John Patitucci, Bill Stewart) Evolution


1981 Soft Machine Land of Cockayne EMI
1970 Splinter (w/ Tom Scott, Chris Spedding a.o.) Harder to Live Dark Horse
1979 Louis Stewart w/ Sam Jones and Billy Higgins I Thought About You Livia
1987 Stan Sulzmann (duo) Everybody's Song but My Own? Loose Tubes
1988 Stan Sulzmann, Frank Ricotti, Tony Hymas, Chris Laurence Aspects of Paragonne MMC/EMI
2016 Stan Sulzmann (duo) Double Exposure (rec. 1990) InVersion
1970 John Surman (big band) How Many Clouds Can You See? Deram
1971 John Surman, Barre Phillips, Stu Martin as The Trio (plus big band w/ Wheeler, Beckett, Skidmore, Osborne, Chick Corea, Dave Holland a.o.) Conflagration Dawn
1971 John Surman / John Warren Tales of the Algonquin Deram
1972 John Surman, Alan Skidmore, Tony Oxley a.o. Jazz in Britain '68–'69 Decca Eclipse
1973 John Surman (sextet) Morning Glory Island
1993 John Surman Quartet Stranger Than Fiction ECM
1996 John Surman (duo w/ chorus, JT organ) Proverbs and Songs ECM
2005 John Surman (quartet) Way Back When (rec. 1969) Cuneiform
1995 Steve Swallow (duo) Parlance Instant Present
2008 Diana Torto (trio) w/ Anders Jormin Triangoli Egea/Astarte
1993, 1997 Colin Towns Mask Orchestra w/ Skidmore, Surman, Nigel Hitchcock a.o. Mask Orchestra (Bolt from the Blue) The Jazz Label, Provocateur
1982 Miroslav Vitouš Journey's End ECM
1998 Eric Vloeimans w/ Marc Johnson and Joey Baron Bitches and Fairy Tales Challenge
2000 Eric Vloeimans w/ di Castri and Joe LaBarbera Umai Challenge
1973 Ray Warleigh w/ Ron Mathewson, Frank Gibson Reverie Vinyl
1971 Mike Westbrook Orchestra Metropolis Neon/RCA Victor


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 389. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ a b c Tamarkin, Jeff (19 July 2015). "John Taylor, British Pianist, Dead at 72". JazzTimes. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  3. ^ Fordham, John (19 July 2015). "John Taylor obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 February 2024.
  4. ^ Naysmith, Stephen (23 July 2015). "John Taylor". The Herald. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  5. ^ "John Taylor, jazz pianist - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 21 July 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  6. ^ Fordham, John (17 December 2007). "Norma Winstone, Amoroso (Only More So)". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  7. ^ Fordham, John (5 September 2003). "John Taylor, Insight". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  8. ^ "John Taylor (Jazz Piano)". University of York. Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  9. ^ Fordham, John (19 July 2015). "John Taylor obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2015.

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