Pianist John Taylor, one of Great Britain’s preeminent jazz musicians, died this past summer at the age of 72. “It was a shock,” fellow pianist John Escreet remembers. “He hadn’t really been ill.”
Escreet is one of the busiest and most versatile jazz pianists working in New York today. He’s recorded with musicians from across the stylistic spectrum—saxophonists as different as David Binney and Evan Parker, drummers as different as Antonio Sanchez and Tyshawn Sorey. Escreet hails from Doncaster, England, and studied with John Taylor at the Royal Academy of Music in London before moving to New York.
“I still would run into him while on the road these past few years,” says Escreet. “He was always very nice to me and encouraging.”
Over the past several years, Taylor also taught at the Siena Jazz Workshop in Italy, along with many of Escreet’s friends and peers—David Binney, bassist Matt Penman, guitarist Lage Lund, and drummer Mark Guiliana, to name a few. After Taylor died, Escreet was asked to fill in for this summer’s workshop. When Escreet arrived, he found out that much of Taylor’s music had been archived in the institute’s library. “Binney and I asked if we could have some of that music,” says Escreet. “So we ended up getting a bunch of John’s original, handwritten scores.”
When Escreet returned to New York after the workshop, he began to practice and play through Taylor’s pieces. He found the music challenging to work through, and a welcome change from the music he had working on recently. Escreet notes that Taylor’s work is “…very pianistic, and a lot of it is very through-composed, with very specific harmony and counterpoint. It’s very detailed and intricate music, very much in the Kenny Wheeler school of composing.”
Knowing he had an upcoming performance at The Jazz Gallery, Escreet decide to put together a band to present Taylor’s music, music that Escreet feels should be better known on this side of the Atlantic. When it came to finding collaborators, Escreet wanted to work with people who had strong relationships with Taylor and his music. David Binney and Matt Penman were natural choices, as they both knew Taylor well from their time teaching at Siena Jazz. For a drummer, Escreet reached out to Bill Stewart. “I had never played with him before, but I sent him an email about the project and he said he would love to do it. Bill had been on tour with John Taylor back in the day as a sideman, and John, on one of his albums, recorded one of Bill’s original tunes.”
Even though each member of the band has a close connection to John Taylor, Escreet says that this isn’t going to be a straight tribute concert. “I want to interpret John’s music in my own way, ” Escreet says. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to do crazy arrangements or anything. I want the tunes to be vehicles for everyone to express themselves musically. And I feel the music is open enough to allow that.”
The Jazz Gallery is proud to present John Escreet and company playing the music of John Taylor this Friday, October 2nd. Whether you’re familiar with John Taylor’s work or not, this concert promises to be an evening of top-notch musicians stretching themselves in new directions, exploring the past to find another way forward.
John Escreet plays the music of John Taylor at The Jazz Gallery on Friday, October 2nd, 2015. Joining Mr. Escreet (on piano) are David Binney on saxophone, Matt Penman on bass, and Bill Stewart on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $22 general admission ($12 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.