Tributes to pianist John Taylor

John Taylor

Highly respected British jazz pianist and educator John Taylor has died. He was 72.

Highly respected British jazz pianist and educator John Taylor has died. He was 72. Born in Manchester, Taylor was active since the mid 1960s influenced by classical piano and possessing a distinctive rhythmic style. Pianist Django Bates describes him as, “a lovely, avuncular pianist, with more than a passing resemblance to Kurt Vonnegut.” 

He played with saxophonists Alan Skidmore and John Surman and with Sir John Dankworth’s Orchestra. In 1977 he formed the trio Azimuth, with former wife Norma Winstone and the late Kenny Wheeler, which saw him play organ and synthesisers too. They recorded for ECM Records, a label with whom Taylor had a long and productive relationship, and toured Europe and the USA.

During his career Taylor played with saxophonists Jan Garbarek, Lee Konitz and Julian Argüelles. He later re-kindled his music partnership with John Surman in the 1990s. He recorded with bassists Charlie Haden and Miroslav Vitous and many more.

Taylor was a keen and excited supporter of new jazz from young players. He was professor of Jazz Piano at the Cologne College of Music since 1993. 

Django Bates added, “he remained an inspiration, a friend to so many musicians, and was always a joy to listen to. There was no shred of competitiveness towards younger generations of musicians, just a welcoming smile”

Ivo Neame of Phronesis said, “such sad news...the few times I met him he was warm, friendly and hilariously eccentric...a real inspiration gone.”

Head of jazz at Trinity Laban conservatoire Simon Purcell said, "on a personal level I am devastated but am also deeply grateful for John’s music and kindness. He has been a constant inspiration and healing force in my musical consciousness since I first heard him 40 years ago – this will continue. Critically, JT’s music was not only beautiful, but deeply revelatory.”

He is reported to have died suddenly on Friday night suffering a heart attack while performing at the Saveurs Jazz Festival in Segré, western France.

Kenny Wheeler Group featuring John Taylor at Tavazsi Festival, Budapest in March 1992.

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