Slideshow: Jazz Luminaries Share Stage in Honor of Fred Taylor
On September 12, several of the leading figures in jazz today came together to pay tribute to Fred Taylor, the beloved impresario who has been at the heart of the Boston music scene, and the jazz scene at large, for more than 50 years. Over those years, Taylor brought countless jazz legends to Boston, including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington ‘71H, Dizzy Gillespie ‘89H, John Coltrane, and Stan Getz, as well as pop and rock acts such as Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, and Bruce Springsteen, among many more while running legendary clubs Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop, serving as artistic director of the Tanglewood Jazz Festival, and booking acts for more than 25 years as the artistic director of Scullers Jazz Club.
The benefit concert, part of Berklee’s Signature Series, featured Kurt Elling, Monty Alexander, Danilo Pérez B.M. ’88, Terri Lyne Carrington B.M. ’83 ‘03H, Grace Kelly B.M. ’11 (who organized the event and co-emceed the evening with Robin Young of WBUR’s Here and Now), Catherine Russell, Kat Edmonson, John Patitucci, Jason Palmer, James Montgomery, Bo Winiker, and a special guest appearance by Pat Metheny ‘96H. One-hundred percent of the proceeds from the fully packed Berklee Performance Center event will go to support the Fred Taylor Scholarship Fund, which was established in Taylor’s honor to nurture gifted and deserving students in need of financial assistance who are studying in the areas of music business/management or professional music at Berklee.
The concert kicked off with Winiker performing a heartfelt rendition of “Rainbow Connection,” Kermit the Frog’s ballad from The Muppet Movie, and ended with the full lineup cranking it up together on Shirley and Lee’s “Let the Good Times Roll.” In between, the participating artists took the crowd on a rousing jazz journey that included originals such as Carrington’s “Come Sunday” and Kelly’s “Trying to Figure It Out,” interspersed with deeply personal speeches and video tributes to Taylor from artists who couldn’t be in attendance, such as Esperanza Spalding B.M. ‘05, Harry Connick Jr., Warren Wolf ‘05, Chris Botti, and many more.
Metheny addressed the students and members of the next generation of jazz in attendance, urging them to celebrate the past but not to view it with rose-colored glasses or to succumb to the idea that the present challenges facing musicians are insurmountable: “It was never easy,” Metheny said of the musical life.
Berklee President Roger H. Brown also spoke at the event, noting that his experience at Berklee has reinforced what Taylor has long understood: that musicians remember those who help them before they meet with significant success.
As the concert came to a close with the crowd on its feet, chants of “We love Fred” filled the Berklee Performance Center, a much-deserved testimony to Boston’s appreciation for the decades Taylor has spent tirelessly keeping the area’s music scene thriving, giving new musicians their first slots on stage with encouragement to keep going, and inspiring countless Berklee students along the way.
Taylor continues booking jazz concerts in the area, including the Jazz and Heritage Series at the Cabot in Beverly, Massachusetts. He is also working on a book titled What, and Give up Showbiz?