REVIEW: Piano Summit dedicated to the memory of John Taylor on the South Bank

L-R Tom Cawley, John Turville, Richard Faihurst
Liam Noble, Kit Downes, Gwilym Simcock,
Michael Wollny, Tom Hewson. Absent from photo: Trish Clowes
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

Piano Summit Dedicated to the Memory of John Taylor
(Purcell Room, 9th September 2015. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The loss of John Taylor was so very sudden, and still is so very recent, it is clear that the process of grieving has further to go. Last night it was as if his cheerful, benign, joyous spirit was still in the room. The context was a celebration, the words spoken by all those who performed were from the heart. Helen Mayhew performed the tricky role of MC-ing it and interviewing all the performers individually with 24-carat professionalism and grace. The event, a celebration, built to a thrilling climax – it was so right that it happened…but, dare I say, it feels there is still a great deal more to be said, experienced and remembered of this open-hearted giant and genius of the jazz world.

The whole evening, lasting two and three-quarter hours including interval, was gone very quickly. Attention never flagged, which is remarkable over such a long stretch. The context, a one-off very special occasion, attended by family and friends, certainly helped, but also because every one of the performers is capable of taking an audience on a journey.

As for the music, the final fast-ride duet with Gwilym Simcock and Michael Wollny brought the evening to a thrilling close. Liam Noble explained the reasons why he wanted to play I’m Old Fashioned, with vivid memories of a time playing it with John Taylor two decades ago, and it was a deeply affecting performance. The mini-set from Tom Cawley and Kit Downes was a quarter of an hour of sheer beauty. The people behind me in the hall instinctively responded immediately it was over with “That was lovely,” which I would say can stand unchallenged and unadorned as a completely accurate review. The Richard Fairhurst / Michael Wollny free improvisation was a wonderful progression from darkness into light. John Turville and Tom Hewson perhaps gave a reminder of how deep the pool of UK piano talent is, and what a role John Taylor had in fostering it. Both of the tunes Trish Clowes and Michael Wollny played had that element of being “playful,” a word which cropped up a lot in the speeches.

Kit Downes said that two of the many things he had learnt from John Taylor were to “embrace mistakes” and to “take risks.” This was a very special night with plenty of risks and no mistakes.


Tom Hewson and John Turville 
Ritual (JT)
Between Moons(JT)
A Perfect Foil (Turville)
Foil (JT)

Liam Noble 
Arrivee (JT)
How Deep is the Ocean

Gwilym Simcock and Richard Fairhurst
Sly Eyes (Wheeler)
Growth in an Old Garden
So it Goes

Michael Wollny and Trish Clowes
Be a Glow-worm (Clowes)
Enjoy This Day (JT)


Tom Cawley and Kit Downes
Knuckle, the Lizard (Cawley)
Madame (Downes)
The Wait (Cawley)

John Turville 
Glebe Asceding (JT)

Liam Noble 
I’m Old Fashioned (Kern)

Richard Fairhurst and Michael Wollny 
Free Improv

Gwilym Simcock and Michael Wollny 

LINKS: RIP John Taylor with links to obituaries
Simon Purcell’s tribute to John Taylor

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. I didn't notice the concert, or I'd have tried to go.

    John was an inspiring player and man. The last paragraph of your review rings true. And reminds me also of Lee Konitz's evolution from slightly obsessive, rigorous purity to adventure, and the salto mortale risks of inspiration. Without sacrificing taste, or aesthetic quality.

    Steve Lacy too (who travelled all the way from Dixieland epigonism): “The spark …. the gap …. the leap”, as he put in in an interview with Brian Case. Wasn't that in the very first issue of The Wire?

    John and Lee collorated in a duet project (bizarrely perhaps for the Pirelli calendar), representing the signs of the Zodiac. I have this album, it's wonderful and worth anyone's listen if you can get it.

    http://www.discogs.com/Lee-Konitz-And-John-Taylor-Songs-Of-The-Stars/release/4631664 (no doubt available from many other outlets, real or online)

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