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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

RICK TAYLOR. (January 31, 1957 - June 7, 2019)

(Remembered by Ros Rigby. Photo of Rick Taylor with Phil Bancroft and Kevin MacKenzie © Rik Walton. Colour photo © The Scotsman.)

The tributes to Rick that have flooded in since his death less than a week ago reveal how positively he touched so many peoples’ lives - particularly musicians he worked with - in the North East, in London, and in Scotland. This is how he touched mine -  and my family’s life.

I first met Rick in the early 1980’s when I became Arts Development Officer for Gateshead Council and was looking at including jazz in the programme at Caedmon Hall. I had brought in my friend John Cumming to work with me and he suggested checking out the band Full Circle - the band led by Rick with pianist Paul Flush, drummer Adrian Tilbrook and bass player Keith Peberdy.  I saw them play at the Corner House and later in collaborations at the Newcastle Jazz Festival with Paul Clarvis and the Van den Driessche brothers- Johan and Peter - and I was impressed.
Rick visited me at our house in Pelton Fell near Chester le Street, and met my husband the writer Graeme Rigby. Rick and Paul Flush were both interested in working with poetry and spoken word and from this chance meeting came the birth of a project called Dreaming North, involving Graeme and the poet Keith Armstrong as writers and Rick and Paul Flush as musicians. The Borough Librarian for Gateshead Council, Patrick Conway, supported the production of an album of the group in 1986 to coincide with publishing a book of the poems - an imaginative move for a library and arts service - but Gateshead has always been bold in supporting culture! Rick was away a lot on tour with Elton John around this time, but always gave this project his full support when he was back home.

The Dreaming North ensemble went on to create several other shows including Traffics and Discoveries - performed at Live Theatre and Caedmon Hall, and Suite for the River Wear, which was later recorded for BBC Radio Newcastle. The group then expanded to create a show with Northumberland Theatre Company – O’er the Hills –telling the story of the 18th century Northumbrian Piper Jamie Allan – also featuring the composer/musician Keith Morris, the piper Kathryn Tickell, and singer Joan McKay, which toured nationally - perhaps Rick’s first experience of working with folk music, but something which led to much more.

Rick and Graeme decided then to work as a duo - Big Boys Don’t Rhyme, which led to other ‘Big’ projects - the one-act opera Big People from Outer Space at the then Gulbenkian Studio Theatre - now part of Northern Stage, and Sunday Lunchtimes with the Big People at Live Theatre, a monthly event with a house band led by Rick - Keith Morris (sax/bass), Graham Stafford (keyboards), Bruce Arthur (percussion), Neil Harland (bass), Katherine Zeserson (vocals), Richard Scott (vocals/sax), Steve Jinski (guitar/vocals) and invited guests from folk music and jazz working on special projects for each one.

The culmination was BigFest - again at Live Theatre - which ran for several years- whereby 21 musicians came together for a week to create a festival of gigs over the final weekend. As well as the great jazz musicians who took part - Nikki Iles, Stan Sulzmann, Gerry Hunt, Claude Deppa, Tom and Phil Bancroft, Chris Biscoe, John Telfer, Josefina Cupido, Annie Whitehead, Kevin Mackenzie - many folk musicians were also involved. The line-ups drew extensively on Rick's work with Grand Union in London and the Bancrofts in Scotland, as well as the contacts I had made through Folkworks, the organisation I set up with Alistair Anderson in 1988. These included Alistair himself, Karen Tweed, Brian Finnegan, Ian Lowthian, Chris Wood, Sandra and Nancy Kerr, Corrina Hewat, Mary McMaster, Catriona Macdonald and more. In many ways it set the scene for the work Rick did on the folk scene when he moved to Scotland two decades ago. 

Alongside these projects, Rick was always keen to work with young players and a band of teenage musicians, Giving it Large, worked under the BigFest umbrella, including my own children. I also worked with him on a project for Houghton Feast bringing together young brass players and singers from Houghton Kepier School, where his daughter Laura was then a student, with guests such as Julian Siegel, Phil Bancroft and a 16-year-old Tim Giles on drums.

More recently, Rick was Music Director for a major project at Sage Gateshead as part of the 2011 Gateshead International Jazz Festival, called Subway Moon, with American musician/composer/writer Roy Nathanson and the Jazz Passengers - working with the youth jazz ensemble Jambone, a youth choir, rappers and DJ’s and more. Through this Rick met guitarist Bradley Johnston who went on to work with Rick up on Skye on his weekend courses; who has this week written movingly about how much his time with Rick meant to him.

Rick was often working away as a very much in demand session musician and MD - George Michael, Wet Wet Wet and many more - but, when he was with you, you always got 100% of the musical talent, awareness and imagination that flowed out of him, regardless of how much the gig was paying.

When, in the early 2000s, he moved up to Skye with Pam Allan - who he met when they were both working at Live Theatre - I was delighted to see how the Scottish music scene - jazz and folk - took him to their collective heart and valued so highly the contribution he could make as a performer but also as an arranger and MD. We still saw Rick fairly often and visited him up in Skye - never thinking that this would stop so suddenly. The news was devastating to our whole family but it has been wonderful to see how many people valued him as a musician and as a person. He will be very much missed.

Ros Rigby
June 2019.

3 comments :

keith armstrong said...

RIP Rick. Your beautiful spirit lives on.

Your poet friend Keith.

Alan Twelftree (on F/b) said...

his music still remembered.

Gerry Richardson said...

A sad loss. I worked with Rick in the early 90s in Blunt End with Nigel Stanger, Frank Gibbon, Paul Smith and later Rob Walker. Rick was a fantastic trombone player and improviser but also a great composer/arranger. He had a photographic memory and perfect pitch. Also brilliant second keys/backing vocals and Latin percussion. He taught me a lot.

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