John Taylor. Glasgow Jazz Festival, June 2015. (In Memoriam.)

Like many people, I have been saddened to learn of the death of pianist John Taylor. I saw him play in June, just three weeks ago. The bulk of this post was written, but not posted, and I thought it appropriate to update it in the light of Saturday’s news.

John Taylor 2008_01220388a
Photo: Richard Kaby on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons licence.

I was sitting in the front row of chairs in the Glasgow City Halls’ Recital Room, a small, intimate space seating maybe a hundred people, with a tall, arched roof.

Over the course of over an hour, I was enchanted. I watched Taylor’s fingers flutter over the keys, seemingly effortlessly. His performance was mesmerising, very engaging, moving the audience to somewhere else. It was contemplative, sometimes introspective music.

The room seemed full of music and ideas, a lovely experience. Much of the music Taylor played came from last year’s CD In Two Minds: he opened with his Ambleside Suite, played a very beautiful Reflections in D by Duke Ellington, which he said he first heard Bobo Stenson play, who heard it from Bill Evans – so, he explained, this was Taylor’s take on Ellington through the lenses of Evans and Stenson.

He spoke movingly of his friend and colleague Kenny Wheeler, playing a couple of Wheeler’s tunes. He described Steve Swallow as “such a nice guy, such a wonderful musician” before playing Swallow’s Vaguely Asian, for which he leant into the guts of the piano and beat out a gentle percussive rhythm, the strings resonating warmly.

It was a lovely concert. It felt like Taylor was letting the audience watch something very personal, and it was a privilege to be there. The thought that this was the last time I’ll be able to see him play fills me with sadness.

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