Mike Taylor Quartet's "Mandala" out soon!

Jazz in Britain has announced the June 17 release of "Mandala," on vinyl and CD in a limited run of 500 copies. This is a concert by the Mike Taylor Quartet recorded in early 1965 by Jon Hiseman, the band's drummer at the time - an absolute rarity for Taylor and British jazz connoisseurs.

As the author of the first and only biography on the Ealing pianist, I had the honor of collaborating in the realization of the record by providing the rare colour drawing of Taylor for the cover reproduced here (from which the title itself is derived). 

The liner notes are edited by jazz expert Duncan Heining, one of the first to deal with Taylor.

The record, destined to become soon a collector's rarity, is available in pre-order at the Bandstand page of the label, at https://jazzinbritain.co.uk/album/mandala 

There, you can listen in advance to the live recordings of "Son of Red Blues" (9:48) and "Folk Dance" (8:40)!


Group Sounds Four & Five new CD: a invaluable document from the past!


The new CD realised by Jazz in Britain with seven tracks recorded for BBC in 1965 and 1966 by the Group Sounds Four (Henry Lowther, Jack Bruce, John Hiseman, Lyn Dobson) and Group Sounds Five (Henry Lowther, Ron Rubin, Ken McCarthy, John Hiseman, Lyn Dobson) is an invaluable document from the British modern jazz era!

Taken from Jon Hiseman's archive (that's a real treasure island for the collectors!), these recordings are a rare testimony about the experiences of this extraordinary collective.

We have here the opportunity, among original tracks by Dobson or Bruce, and jazz standards (as the "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise" or "Night & Day"), to hear Mike Taylor's "Black & White Raga", presumably composed in 1965.

As Duncan Heining wrote in the liner notes, the track "runs out an astonishing (for the BBC) twelve minutes, every minute justified. This is highly sophisticated music, a step beyond much other modal material, alternating as it does the black notes of the piano in ascending and descending patterns. Its only recording, to my knowledge, is on the 2007 release Mike Taylor Remembered, which uses the same arrangement, with Rubin on bass on that date as well. For my money, the GS%R version takes the prize. It has a more open and personalised feel to it.  The music breaths and the listener has a sense of a complete composition unfolding through a series of movements".

I'm totally agreed with Heining, we have here probably the more adherent version of Taylor's original idea.

As Jon Hiseman recalled in an interview I got for my 2015 book about Taylor, 

"Mike's compositions played for the Group Sound Five were exceptional in that they were so different from the conventional jazz of the time. I recount in my book, Playing the Band, how GS5 was asked to play on the BBC's Jazz Club programme which was recorded in front of a live audience and was compèred by Humphrey Lyttleton. I was acting for the band in dealing with the BBC and was telephoned up by the producer and asked to give him the five jazz standards we would be playing. I told him that we would only probably be able to play free numbers because one of them is likely to last about 20 minutes. This was Mike's "Black & White Raga". The producer was horrified - he was only interested in conventional jazz. I told him that we wouldn't be able to perform unless we could do our own music because that's what the band did and we didn't know anything else. Not strictly true of course, because we could have played anything, but we didn't want to do anything other than present what GS5 was becoming known for. Finally, the producer gave in and on the broadcast, Humphrey Lyttleton actually announces that there will be a departure from the usual procedure in that we would playing something completely different."


Beautifully packaged 180g vinyl Flip-back sleeve or in a digipack standard CD, the album is strictly limited pressing run of 500 copies worldwide. You can listen and buy it at the Jazz in Britain's Bandcamp page at https://jazzinbritain.co.uk/album/black-white-raga



Tony Reeves found unrealised tracks from "Pendulum"!

Mike Taylor's fans are waiting for another great event: bassist Tony Reeves, who played on Mike Taylor's "Pendulum", found in his personal archive some unrealised tracks recorded at the sessions in October 1965.

Journalist Robert Morton Jack, who released the CD edition of "Pendulum" in 2007 (Sunbean Records), now a rarity, is going to release the tracks this year.



Mike Taylor quartet 1964-1965 gig recording found!

After Barbara Thompson wonderful boxset, British label Jazz in Britain is going to realise a vinyl album with an old Mike Taylor Quartet's live recording taken in end 1964/early 1965 at the Studio Jazz Club (Westcliff-on-sea, Southend). The liner note are edited by jazz critic Duncan Heining.

John Thurow, who runs Jazz in Britain, announced to me this miracle:

"I run a new book publishing company and record label called Jazz In Britain and we're all about releasing archive recordings of British Progressive Jazz that comes from the musicians' own archives:
We have 'found' a recording of the Southend gig you mention in your Mike Taylor book on page 158, recollected by Digby Fairweather. As you would expect this was in the Jon Hiseman archive. We plan to release this on vinyl and download.

We are also releasing the Group Sounds Five and Group Sounds Four BBC sessions that were also in Jon's archive.
This is what we have recovered from the tape and how the vinyl will be programmed:


Mike Taylor – piano
Dave Tomlin – tenor sax
Tony Reeves – bass
Jon Hiseman – drums

A1. Son Of Red Blues 9:48
A2. Night In Tunisia 8:57
B1. Folk Dance No. 1 / Summer Sounds, Summer Sights 8:40
B2. Half Blue 5:09
B3. Untitled 6:23
Total time: 38:59

From the Jon Hiseman Temple Music Archive courtesy of Barbara Thompson and Ana Gracey."
A little philological question here is if at bass there was Tony Reeves or Jack Bruce, as Digby Fairweather remembered when I had an interview with him (read here). Duncan Heining is making some new researches about this, contacting Fairweather, Reeves and Tomlin for having eventually new clues about it. We will see. 
Anyway, this is a unexpected discover, a true gem!


Mike Taylor's "Trio" album reissued!?

A Russian label Audio Clarity recently reissued the Mike Taylor's "Trio" album. It's probably an unofficial release and ripped from  the Universal CD published in 2004.
Copies (for about £ 15-20) are available on Amazon or Ebay circuits.
Here below some pictures taken by super collector Koro Ito:


Other two obituaries about Ron Rubin.

Two obituaries about Ron Rubin have been posted in the Web in these last few days.
A very interesting one is edited by well-known journalist Richard Williams on his blog thebluemoment at https://thebluemoment.com/2020/04/29/ron-rubin-1933-2020/
Another one, with the beautiful photo of Ron here below, was posted on jazz portal Jazz Views by Matthew Wright at https://www.jazzviews.net/obituaries.html


Barbara Thompson 6CDs box out soon!

Barbara Thompson will publish a 6CDs box soon with a big amount of unreleased tracks from her personal archive. As Repertoire Records states on the press release (original page here), 

"This previously hidden treasure trove of Barbara Thompson recordings amounts to twelve CDs containing more than 20 years’ complete radio programmes recorded and broadcast by the BBC. Many come from Barbara’s own tapes, preserved by her husband Jon Hiseman in their archive at Temple Music, while other have been gathered from private collections across Britain and Europe.

The material ranges from a live concert by the New Jazz Orchestra, introduced by Humphrey Lyttelton (from February 1969) to a set by Paraphernalia, featuring Jon Hiseman, Peter Lemer, Malcolm McFarlane and Phil Mulford, dating from June 1990. Along the way are such rare items as a set of compositions by Mike Taylor, broadcast in 1969, as a tribute following his recent death; Improvisations for Octet and Strings (1970), Five Movements for Jazz Ensemble, conducted by Neil Ardley and introduced by Ian Carr (1971); several programmes from the mid-1970s by Jubiaba – and many, many sets by Paraphernalia in its various forms remastered to the highest level with extensive liner notes by celebrated jazz critic, broadcaster and saxophonist Dave Gelly.

The release will coincide with Thompson’s new autobiography published by Jazz in Britain – a must read for all fans and Jazz Aficionados!".

I hope that this important release can  lead to publication of some jams involving her playing with Jon Hiseman, Mike Taylor, Graham Bond  and Tony Reeves at Thompson's home in end 1966-beginning 1967, as documented on my book...


RON RUBIN (Liverpool 1933- London 2020) R.I.P.

Another sad news for everyone here: Ron Rubin, the great bass player who played with Mike Taylor on the second album and in many gigs in duo or trio, is passed away on April, 14th 2020 (not due to corona virus).
The bad news was posted on Facebook by Sandy Brown Jazz on the page HERE

There's no idea about the reason of his death, but I remember that in 2013-2015, during the exausting work for the Mike Taylor biography, he was often ill and he was recovered at the hospital for some weeks.

I cannot forget the huge generosity of the man who sent me everything he had about his peculiar relationship with Taylor: his precious list of gigs he played (see HERE), that enigmatic drawing (see HERE) Mike gave to him in the last years of his life; some memories and observations by letter (he had no e-mail or smartphone).
Just in two occasions I called him at the telephone, trying to interview him, but frankly for me it wasn't easy at all understand his English and we preferred write letters.
My gratitude to him is absolute and I think his contribution was fundamental for helping me to write this difficult book.  

Born in Liverpool on July 8th, 1933, very young he started with music playing violin, then the piano. Army service in Germany, played in the Rhine River Jazz Band. Just after that experience, he started to play double bass. Played in and around Liverpool in some bands (Ralph Bags Watmough Band, Lee Harris Six, Wall City Jazzmen, Darry Dugdale's Trio), before to move to London in 1961, where he played with many other bands as Glyn Morgan Band, Dick Williams Band, Fairweather-Brown All Stars (1962-1965), Ronnie Selby Trio (in 1965),  New Departures (1966-1967). As we know, he played also with Mike Taylor from 1962-1969.
During the second half of Sixties, mainly in London, he played with a huge amount of bands on double bass and piano: Lennie Best Quartet, Billy Eckstine, Howard Riley, Michael Garrick, Manfred Mann, Barbara Thompson...
From 1969-1972 he played solo piano in Palma (Maiorca), then (1972-1973) with Colin Purbrook Trio, John Picard Band (1973-1976), Roy Mathewson (1975) and with his own band in 1975-1976. 

Taylor, Rubin and Tomlin in 1962.
During the late '70's with Keith Ingham Trio, Fred Hunt Trio, Alex Welsh (1979-1981). At the beginning of '80's he played in Austria (with Fatty George's Band) and Switzerland (in 1981-1983 with Oscar Klein, Keith Smith, Geoff Simkins). In duo work with Earl Okin (1983), toured with Will Bill Davison (1983), touring with Donald Swann-Digby Fairweather, playing solo piano concerts and in duo with Brian Leake. 
In 1987-1988 he played with George Melly-John Chilton; in 1989 with Bruce Turner Quartet, in 1990 with Campbell Burnap. From 1990-1993 he played piano with George Melly-John Chilton again, and in 1993-1994 with Phil Franklin in Switzerland.
At the beginning of 2000's he played piano solo and with others musicians.
(A partial discography is available at Discogs HERE).

A passionate expert and a writer of limericks (!!!), in 2013 he was working on his professional autobiography: it was titled "Jottings from a Jazzman's Journal: from 1954 to 2010" but I guess unfortunately it's never been published.

Here's one of his limericks:

"Said a gentleman dining in Papua
to his friend, 
'What an awfully nice 
chap you are
to allow me to share
you're delicious grand-mère
but you're dropping her bones in
my lap you are'".

R.I.P. Ron!


Eil.com found and sell a near mint copy of Mike Taylor's "Trio"!

Well-known website for collectors Eil.com found a near mint copy of "Trio", the second masterpiece album recorded by Mike Taylor in 1967.
They sell it at the very cheap price of... £ 1,495 (1.750 euros)!
Here's below the description of the item and the pictures of the record:


(Monster Rare 1967 UK-only 8-track MONO LP on the blue & black Columbia label in the Lansdowne series, one of the ultimate wallet pounding, near mythical British Progressive Jazz releases on many want lists, also starring Jack Bruce or Ron Rubin on Bass & John Hiseman on Drums, unique front laminated flipback picture sleeve. This is a remarkable find & a one previous owner copy - the record sold in such few amounts that finding one at all is a near miracle! The sleeve remains in lovely, clean condition & easily grades Excellent. There is a small name penned to a back corner, the only minor grievance with otherwise beautiful condition allround. Some faint & natural age discolouring is noticeable on some front edges of little consequence. The vinyl is stunning Near Mint, perhaps only ever played once or twice in its lifetime, & still has the static cling commonly associated with a Near Mint vinyl record. One of a kind & highly recommended for the adventurous collector SX6137).

You can see and buy (!?!?) this exclusive record at https://eil.com/shop/moreinfo.asp?catalogid=740687


Jack Kilby's memories on Mike Taylor...

For tributing the memory of JAK KILBY, the only thing I can do is to publish his very interesting memories he sent me in 2014 for my book on Mike Taylor.
1- (His kind reply to my request of interviewing him)

"Hi Luca,
You can ask me what you like. But I doubt whether I'll know much about Mike Taylor. I only heard him once, at the time I took the photographs, which was a rehearsal I was at just by chance. And he went 'off the rails' completely not long after, from drugs &/or insanity, and as I guess you know, it was not long before he drowned in mysterious circumstances. In some ways he fitted into the development of Jazz/New Music in Britain at the time. But he was also quite unique.
Kind regards,


2- (His first letter)

"I'm not going to check how many photos. There were not a lot anyway but they were taken in extremely bad lighting conditions - pushing the limits of what was possible with film at the time. When those re-issues were made - actually, one by Richard Morton Jack (as per the blog you sent) the only usable pictures (black & white negatives) were scanned & there were seven shots. Some are similar to each other. I just checked them and they don't look as good as what I do now - I'm an old man feeling my way through digital technology by trial and error & pretty much a cyber-dance.

Anyway, the photographs were taken during a rehearsal of the Mike Taylor Trio at Ronnie Scott's Old Place on the 27th October 1967. The location is not the place known as Ronnie Scott's Club today, it was the older premises in Gerard Street in London, Chinatown - at the time, lots of Chinese but not as much as now. When Ronnie Scott moved to his new better and bigger space the old club was at first closed and then re-opened to present British Jazz, but only for a short time as (I was told this by drummer John Stevens who was offered to run the Old Place but turned it down) they were planning to open a gambling club for Chinese but needed time to get the license, and to show something else happening meanwhile.

When I went to the club that time, it was because I'd been told the Archie Shepp Quintet (Shepp, Roswell Rudd, Granchen Moncur III, Jimmy Garrison & Beaver Harris) would be rehearsing that afternoon. They were and I took photographs of them. But when they finished Mike Taylor arrived to rehearse. They only played a short time. His trio was with Ron Rubin (double bass) and Laurie Allen on drums. When they finished the Chris McGregor Group (Blue Notes) arrived to rehearse, so it was quite a day!

All I know of Mike Taylor from the time was that he seemed slightly outside most of the local Jazz scene but his work was quite unique and brilliant. He managed to record for what was then a major record label, which most of the London musicians could not get near. He composed a huge amount of music in a very short time but later destroyed all his written work. When i took the photographs he was no longer in his 'bank manager' phase. He looked like an archetype hippy, wore no shoes and was taking a lot of drugs. But he was still playing piano. Later, I heard he seemed unable to play piano if he turned up at all.

You would have a very difficult time trying to find his brother Terry, if he is still alive. For one thing, I doubt whether he is known by others on the British Jazz scene, although it's worth asking anyone you talk to. Also, his name is very common - there will be thousands of Taylor's.

I think your only chance is to try asking as many musicians as possible who might have played with him or known him, his contemporaries. This might not be easy and it's a long time ago. Dave Tomlin, Henry Lowther and Jon Hiseman might be good candidates. Some who may have been contemporaries but I don't think played with him might have ideas and information. I'm thinking of Evan Parker.

John Jack who was managing Ronnie Scott's Old Place might have some information. He ran Cadillac Music (records and distribution) for many years but it closed down last year, at least closed its office. Hazel Miller (of Ogun Records) also worked with Cadillac. Just throwing out ideas.

I also wonder whether Jonny Trunk found more information. He released the 12" vinyl version of Mike Taylor Remembered (Neil Ardley).

Mike Taylor's death was a tragedy but it seems his life towards the end was as well. It is a tragic example of the dangers of extreme drug use at the time. It is also, in many ways, similar to the demise of his contemporary Graham Bond (drugs, occult & mysterious death - falling in front of a London underground train).
There are a few things to go on anyway. Good luck!

3- (His third letter, replying to my other questions)

"I'll try to answer some points:-
I don't have a record of the Shepp gig as I was not allowed to take photographs - it was one of the bigger festivals at the time and they played at Hammersmith in London. I got into the backstage of the theatre with Johnny Dyani & Mongezi Feza of the Blue Notes. We were in the backstage dressing room just before the concert and went down with the band as they went on stage, but hid in the wings. But the security came and pulled us out, well, Mongezi & myself - they put us back in the dressing room where we could see & hear nothing. Johnny managed to stay at the side of the stage as they did not see him. We crept back and were seen and thrown out of the theatre. I think from memory this concert was only a couple of days after that rehearsal.

In 1967 I had been working in a photography studio for four years, straight from school as a trainee then eventually as a junior photographer. This was the old way - college was almost non-exsistant then and what there was was not well regarded. We worked long hours for very low money. In 1967 I left the company hoping to find a better job but was immediately asked to do freelance work. So I became freelance and that was the case for the rest of my life. At the same time I was a music fan. We had a lot of blues musicians in London in the 1960's and I heard a lot of that. When I worked for the company several of us of the same age used to go to a local record shop at lunchtime - you could listen to the records free of charge in booths so we went through every blues record we found and when we used them up tarted on the Jazz section. I really liked that music! We also used to read Melody Maker which featured news and stories about many types of music at that time, not just the output of the commercial record companies but Jazz, Blues and Folk music.

I was doing many kinds of work as a freelance photographer but early on met drummer John Stevens and saxophonist Evan Parker walking down a street. I recognised them from Melody Maker. So I talked to them and was then invited to their gigs. This started me photographing their music events, particularly at the Little Theatre Club which John ran. The Theatre Club would run 'casting' theatre productions, with new plays every two weeks so I also got the job of photographing their theatre productions. I was helping in the Jazz side of the club, taking money on the door, taking photographs of the musicians and driving them to gigs outside London, which got me to other locations for Jazz. Ronnie Scott's Old Place was something of a rival club. So, I did not just photograph Jazz. But it was something I did speculatively, that is, usually unpaid, but hoping to get something from any photographs published later. I also did some work with a few rock musicians but that was usually only if I was hired.

Mike Taylor's music the time I heard it - in the afternoon, not evening - all I can remember is it was 'different', quite unlike anything I'd been hearing on record, not straight ahead bebop or any of the British or American 'free'/ avant-garde new music. It was quite original and in that respect it had what people like myself would want - the sound of surprise. Yes , Taylor was the focus of the group I heard. But that is not unusual with a piano trio.

I think Henry Lowther will have a few things to say about Mike Taylor. I had a look in a book and he has a bit of an interview about Taylor there, and his experiences. The book is 'Innovations in British Jazz (Vol One 1960-1980)' by John Wickes. We call it the 'loosleaf' book because it was not well produced and all the pages fall out. I have many photographs in this but was not paid - the publisher was a disaster with a bad attitude, but the book has good information although it's much too long, it should have been edited. Probably Lyn Dobson would have information on Mike Taylor. Also, seeing what Henry Lowther mentioned there I think Hazel Miller will also know something. She is the best contact for getting in touch with John Jack as well if you cannot otherwise. And Jon Hiseman would be crucial, maybe Barbara Thompson might also remember something (Jon Hiseman's wife).

I'll make some small low resolution versions of the Mike Taylor photos I scanned & send them by email another time. Just samples for you to see.



Jak Kilby (1947-2020) R.I.P.

Tragic news for this beginning of 2020: great artistic photographer Jak Kilbi, who documented London's jazz music in the Sixties (taking also some photos of Mike Taylor in 1967), died today at London's King's College Hospital at 73.
These below are the sad words of his daughter Safiyah:

"It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that my father, Muhsin Kilby, also known as John Alan Kilby and Jak Kilby, passed away this morning at King’s College Hospital, London, Friday January 3rd 2020.
He always fought for justice & peace especially related to Palestine, and actively helped people regardless of background, and will always be the kindest, most calm and gentle man I have ever met. I am lucky to have had such a father, teacher and also one of my first best friends.
Please keep him in your prayers, regardless of faith, and if any of you would be able to attend his funeral and share news of his passing, with others, it would really mean a lot to us. Please feel to message any of us, but phone calls are hard to deal with for now. We’ll post more information when we have it. Most likely the funeral will be tomorrow (Saturday, January 4th)."

Muhsin Kilby
29th April 1947 - 3rd January 2020


A memory about Mike from Digby Fairweather.

This post is the first contribution about Mike Taylor's experience through the full interviews and writings I collected during the editing of my book.
I received this short memory from Digby Fairweather on August 7h, 2012:

"Dear Luca,
many thanks for the questions - though sadly I don't have answers to all of them!

I remember very well the first - and only! - time I heard Mike. It was at the Studio Jazz Club in Westcliff on Sea, one Friday night in (I think) l963, and the last time I spoke to Jon Hiseman he remembered the night too, if I remember rightly.

Resident at 'Studio Jazz' on Friday nights was the 'Southend Modern Jazz Quintet' (SMJQ) led by tenorist Kenny Baxter. Quite latte on in the evening my recollection is of a quite sudden and probably unscheduled 'invasion' - by the Mike Taylor Quartet: Dave Tomlin, Jack Bruce, Jon and the leader. They took the stage to play what - to us - sounded to be some very contemporary Coltrane style jazz, and as we were more used to Parker, Rollins and Adderley their arrival created quite a stir and some lively controversy too! Whether the group had been 'booked' I'm not sure but my impression is that they just came in for the heck of it - and blew the club apart in the process. 

 I don't know if Mike was really a 'genius' - it's an overworked term! - but he was certainly well ahead of his time at the period! There are others who could certainly advance more informed and reliable opinions. But either way there's no doubt that the romantics amongst jazz followers tend to bestow the title on any musician of note who is unlucky enough to die early.

I think the reason for his 'decline' was - at least in part - bound up with the dramatic change in popular fashions in music at the time. This after all was at the very point of the 'Beatles Invasion' which drove jazz once and for all into an intellectual byway - where it still remains. And the kind of jazz that Mike chose to play would have stood little chance of any widespread popularity as the 'baby-boomer' generation took the Beatles, the Stones and rock music to their hearts.

My later connection with Mike had to do with his demise. My father John Fairweather was a civilian photographer in Southend Police at the time and told me that a jazz musician had ended his life by drowning and was washed up (I believe)on the beach at Leigh on Sea. He also showed me the photographs - very sad.

I think one possible contact for more information may be the blues singer Paul Jones. Paul and I work together regularly in a show with my band - 'The Half Dozen' - called 'Rocking in Rhythm'. You can e-mail him at p.pond1@btinternet.com and I'm sure he'll help if he can tho' he is a VERY busy man.

As to my own activities; well I'm still blowing, leading my band and playing trumpet all around the country. 

With my best wishes,

Interesting sources
Digby's Wikipedia page: 
Digby's personal Web site: http://www.digbyfairweather.com/


Mike Taylor quoted on a Richard Williams' post.

Journalist and writer Richard Williams quoted Mike Taylor on a piece dedicated to Creem bass player Jack Bruce writing:

A couple of years later there was the amazing album by the pianist Mike Taylor, Trio, on which Bruce and Ron Rubin shared the bass duties: sometimes together, sometimes alternating. Taylor’s conception was that of an English Dick Twardzik, abstract and cerebral even on standards like “All the Things You Are” and “The End of a Love Affair”, and Jack was the perfect fit.

You can find the full post here: https://thebluemoment.com/tag/mike-taylor/


Italian jazz magazine wrote on Mike Taylor ignoring this book...

In March 2019, Paolo Vitolo of "Musica Jazz. The Italian Jazz magazine" wrote a long story about Mike Taylor (full of inaccuracies)... ignoring the existence of this book!

A usual, even classic, case of scarce Italian professionalism, considering I spent two years investigating on Taylor, with many troubles for doing it.


New updated and expanded edition of the book out soon?

I'm working on a new edition of the Mike Taylor book. A new title, a different format and, most of all, some new documents found for an updated and expanded edition.
After the bad experience with Gonzo Multimedia, shall I find a new publisher somewhere?
Suggestions and proposals will be very appreciated!