By Matt Micucci
On June 17, 72-year-old British jazz pianist John Taylor died suddenly after suffering a heart attack while performing live at the Saveurs Jazz Festival in Segré, a village in Western France. He was resuscitated on the spot, but died later in the hospital.
Taylor was born in Manchester on September 25, 1942. He had been a towering but humble figure in the British and European jazz scene since the late sixties, where he became renowned for playing with such figures as saxophonists John Surman and Alan Skidmore. He also accompanied Cleo Laine in the seventies.
Yet, his most prominent collaboration was that with composer and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, who considered him his pianist of choice. The two collaborated on many projects together over a period of over four decades. Along with Taylor’s wife at the time, vocalist Norma Winstone, they formed the ground breaking chamber-jazz trio Azimuth. Kenny Wheeler died last fall.
His characteristic style was made of riveting blend of asymmetrical rhythm, often employing drumming patterns, with harmonic sensibilities. It was the fruit of influences from the whole of the jazz palette, but also from classical music. Such style likens him to other great jazz pianists such as Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett.
Taylor was also a professor of jazz piano at the Cologne College of Music in Germany, since 1993, and became a lecturer in jazz at the York University in Britain in 2005.