Yorkshireman trumpeter of prodigious technique and immaculate taste Mike Taylor died on Thursday 18th February (I believe that he came from Rotherham or Barnsley - no doubt many of your subscribers will be able to recall him).
Mike was one of those musical giants - and this is no exaggeration - who could play in any style from New Orleans to bebop and beyond with total conviction and commitment to whatever the music demanded, and with phenomenal range and technique. He agreed to help me out with my band HARLEM for a gig in Oldham for the International Duke Ellington Festival sometime in the 1980s - and stayed with the band for five years (admitting that he liked blowing with us "''coz you guys know how to 'give it one, don'tcha?'") Subsequently he worked the Midlands' scene more on piano than trumpet, and I think he was out of the jazz scene for some years. I believe he spent time in London playing with various traditional jazz bands, including Micky Ashman's band.
Mike's funeral is at Alrewas Crematorium at 11.30 on Monday 7th March - I'm hoping to be there, my own fractious health permitting!
I would like to add to Paul Munnery's nice obituary on Mike Taylor with a few happy memories of my own: I first met Mike in the B & Q store opening brass band in the 1980's. A short time after that David Woonton invited me to form a street band for the Granada Studios Tour. (Hi Life Brass Band) I invited Mike and Ian Royal to be the trumpet team. Both had big band experience, so the band developed into a swing band with a New Orleans street beat, which was fine for the crowds we played to every Saturday & Sunday for several years. Ian Royal is known for being a very skilful high note player, yet he and Mike formed a mutual admiration society, each always praising the other behind his back. Hi Life went on to play festivals including Cork and Ascona.
Musically Mike enjoyed taking risks. I once saw him in a big band when he hadn't played for a while. He stood up and did a brilliant solo. To finish he went for a really high note and finished up blowing fresh air. Instead of showing embarrassment, he looked into the crowd, laughed and shrugged his shoulders, turning the incident into a comedy sketch.
Tony Quinn told me on the phone that Mike rang him up from the care home he was in, inviting him for a pint at the pub next to it. After a while in the pub Mike got up to go to the toilets and simply fell over and died. An enviable end eh?
I can't express how sad I am after hearing about Mike Taylor's death. The tributes from first Paul Munnery and then Dave Donohoe said it almost all but let me add a few memories of a very fine musician and great 'mate' who I worked with in Dave's 'Hi Life Brass Band'. I remember Mike and I playing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' outside a church on the Bude Festival and the vicar coming out. Unfortunately a service was going on at the time and said vicar asked us very politely to move on. "Maybe one day they'll get religion" was Mike's comment which totally creased me. I also have a good photo of the 'Hi-Life' at the Cork Jazz Festival (Granville Edwards and Frank Brooker were on that gig as well as Mike and myself) and somewhere or other a VHS of the band at the Exhibition Centre round the back of the old Free Trade Hall. Then there was the opening of a B&Q store in Derbyshire, playing to a queue in a snowbound car park. I won't repeat Mike's comments on that one! Those were great days with good music and even better memories. RIP Mike Taylor.
Acknowledgement. This obituary was written in collaboration with jazz chronicler John Butler and sourced primarily from his copious records. My role was assembler and scribe. - Alan Hippsley 17.3.2016.
Trumpeter, pianist and bandleader John Michael Taylor died on 18th.February 2016 aged 81. A Doncaster jazz musician with musically eclectic tastes he spent a short time in London after National Service in The Royal Tank Regiment playing some sessions with the Tony Kinsey Quintet. He then returned to Doncaster and played trumpet with drummer Brian Hetherington’s Louisiana Jazz Band before forming his own band when Brian returned to London, eventually to join Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen.
Initially short lived, the band soon re emerged after deciding to dedicate itself fully to the traditional jazz style. It elected John Butler as band manager and established its base at Doncaster’s already very popular traditional jazz club The Bentley Hotel (The Big Drum), playing there every Sunday evening. The band’s appeal quickly spread across the North and Midlands, where it played at many town and city venues including Paddy McKiernan’s Manchester Bodega, Nottingham’s Dancing Slipper and Liverpool’s Mardi Gras, Cavern and Iron Door Clubs. Mike Taylor’s Jazzmen were noted for their professionalism, bright driving sound, relaxing swing and large repertoire.
From 1959 to 1961 the outfit became one of the North’s top jazz bands. After playing some engagements in Yorkshire run by The Prendercast Agency, which was owned and managed by the father of film composer John Barry, the Agency sought to sign and groom the band for stardom. Functioning as a cooperative band, it elected to turn down the offer, as it later did when similarly approached by The Jim Godbolt Agency.
The band continued through a “Glorious Summer”, performing on river cruises, at galas, festivals and the gamut of gigs, sometimes sharing the bill with jazz and other entertainment luminaries of the time. A busy winter followed until the band’s clarinetist Carl Hemingfield decided to accept an offer to join Mike Peter’s Florida Jazz Band. Gordon Coulson the band’s trombonist followed Carl, replacing Roy Williams when Roy joined Terry Lightfoot’s Jazz Band. Thus Mike Taylor’s Jazzmen was suddenly reduced to a quartet, with John Butler joining the band on piano after the banjo player also left. It continued playing at Doncaster’s Big Drum for a while, but to reduced audiences, until Mike decided to join Micky Ashman’s Ragtime Band. In consequence Mike and John Butler moved to London, John taking a job helping Agent/Promoter Jim Godbolt prepare and open his new Jazz Club “The Gaff” in South London with The Sandy Brown, Bruce Turner and Fat John Cox Bands.
When the traditional jazz boom ended Mike Taylor joined the Birmingham based Second City Jazzmen playing both trumpet and piano. He continued to be in demand as a guest and appeared with many different bands. These included frequent appearances with Paul Dunmall’s Jazz Orchestra and several at Switzerland’s Ascona Jazz Festival. He also appeared with Digby Fairweather’s Band playing piano. Touring American jazz stars with whom Mike appeared during this period included Billy Butterfield, Wild Bill Davidson, Bud Freeman, Arthur Hodes and Earl Warren.
Mike’s trumpet playing career was later hampered by several minor health problems, though he was persuaded by John Butler to play again in his native Doncaster in April 2008, where he was reunited with his band’s clarinetist Carl Hemingfield and excellent drummer/vocalist Bob Quinn. The three were long retired as were most of the participating musicians, the occasion being a memorable nostalgic Reunion Concert entitled “One More Time” featuring many of the area’s ’50’s and ’60‘s traditional jazz musicians.
Mike Taylor was indeed an accomplished and revered jazz musician. Throughout his adult life he was also a keen single handed yachtsman. Following the advance of what was to be his terminal illness he donated his yacht to the Royal Naval Training College before moving to Nottingham to be near and receive the care of his kinfolk, an inoperable brain tumour having been diagnosed last January.
The funeral was held on the 7th.March at Litchfield Crematorium and “The Mike Taylor Memorial Jazz Band” played outside the Crematorium before and after the service. Assembled specially for the occasion by Gordon Whitworth, its ranks were swelled by some additional musicians who attended the funeral. The line up was :- Sousaphone – Brian Lawrence : Trombones – Terry McGrath, Graham Woodhouse & Stan Stevens : Reeds – Dave Taylor & Roger Bird : Trumpets – Gordon Whitworth & Brian Bates : Snare Drum – ‘Spud’ Spedding : Banjo – Dave Wagstaff.
John Butler & Alan Hippsley
Can I have another bite at the Mike Taylor saga? Reading the reminiscences of Ian and Dave and others has brought to mind an incident which amplifies Mike's attitude to his music - and to his life!
John Butler and Alan Hippsley's excellent resume of Mike's career mentions his maritime adventures, and I know that he was a very enthusiastic and competent yachtsman. One of his earlier colleagues in the Second City Jazz Band, the late clarinettist Jim Hyde, was also a keen sailor, and on one classic occasion, they embarked together on a short voyage into the Irish Sea.
Jim, besides being a fine, creative musician, was a perfect gentleman, and inclined to be just a little bit cautious. Mike, on the other hand, had a streak of recklessness in him (and I know he would be proud to have been so described!) and was ever a bit of a chancer.
As it happens, I was playing gigs with both of them at the time, and heard both sides of the story. Mike's version: "It was okay, but he gets all twitchy the moment he loses sight of the shore". Jim's version: "He's got a death wish!! He points the boat out into the open sea, and he hasn't got a clue where he's heading!"
The point of all this is that this is precisely what made Mike the musician that he was - and Dave Donohoe's story about Mike reaching out for the note that wasn't there (and then laughing it off) bears this out. He took chances which usually came off spectacularly - and when they occasionally didn't, he shrugged it off. Nothing ventured, nothing gained - that was Mike Taylor.
He played his trumpet like he sailed his yacht - and in both fields of attainment, he excelled because of his fearless approach to his music, his sailing and his life.
I'm proud to have known him and to have blown alongside him.
Very sad to hear about the passing of Mike Taylor who was a good pal for many years, I met Mike in the late 70's when I had formed a mainstream band which included Mike Turner who travelled with Mike as they both lived in the Lichfield area and we became good mates, great player but took no prisoners, other band members were Roger Heeley, Ray Paul, Ron Hills and yours truly, I was out of my depth at that time but the lads were great with me.. Mike was not only an incredible trumpet player but he also played keyboards very well, I used to get phone calls from him in the small hours asking me to check out chords as I had access to ex Hedley ward trio pianist George Taylors music. I always thought that he was influenced by Roy Aldridge but he always denied this. Mike played with Rog Heeley who told me that he played with Mike for Basil Wainrights allstars before he was replaced by Bob Wallace. Mike was also a fine chess player and had rave reviews when he was a schoolboy. He lived at Lichfield with his mother but I think he was from Retford nr Nottingham. he was an interesting character and a great muso playing trumpet, flugel and keyboards to a high standard.
He shared his yacht with clarinet player Jimmy Hyde and I was invited to sail with him, this is another story which I won't go into except to say that the experience turned me onto power boats, nuff said, great loss to anyone that knew him well.
Roy Lowe (drums),
Doctors of Jazz,