Scholarship Named for Fred Taylor
On September 12, an all-star cast of musicians performed at the Berklee Performance Center to pay tribute to Fred Taylor, Boston’s revered jazz promoter and concert producer. Taylor has devoted more than five decades of his life to booking countless musicians primarily in jazz, but in popular music too, building careers in the process.
Saxophonist and vocalist Grace Kelly ’12 B.M., was the moving force behind the event, a fundraiser to establish an endowed scholarship at Berklee in Taylor’s name. Kelly reached out to president Roger Brown who offered the BPC as the venue. Together with her parents Irene Chang and Bob Kelly, Grace Kelly assembled a team to handle all logistics.
Acting as the evening’s cohost with Boston media personality Robin Young, Kelly stated that 100 percent of the ticket revenue went toward the scholarship fund because the featured musicians traveled at their own expense and performed gratis. Among the night’s performers whose careers Taylor boosted were Kurt Elling, Monty Alexander, Bo and Bill Winiker, Danilo Pérez, Kat Edmonson, Terri Lyne Carrington, Catherine Russell, John Patitucci, James Montgomery, and Grace Kelly. The core backing band included faculty members Jason Palmer (trumpet, music director), Tim Ray (piano) and Mark Walker (drums), plus James Dale (bass).
Among the musical highlights were vocalists Kat Edmonson’s gentle samba “What Else Can I Do,” and Kurt Elling’s dynamic delivery of “Nature Boy.” Kelly performed throughout, but really shined on her gospel-tinged original, “Trying to Figure it Out.” Pianist Monty Alexander, backed by Patitucci and Carrington, rendered “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as a shuffle. Carrington, Pérez, and Montgomery each led their own energetic sets.
Speaking rather than playing, Pat Metheny recalled fondly Taylor’s encouragement when he was just 21. He noted that subsequently they have worked together for the past 42 years.
In 1965, Taylor opened Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop, iconic adjoining nightclubs at 733 Boylston Street. At the Jazz Workshop he booked then-rising jazzers John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, George Benson, and countless others. He hosted emerging pop artists such as Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Bette Midler, and others at Paul’s Mall.
Throughout the evening, fond reminiscences flowed from the artists onstage and others via video. Taking the mic, the octogenarian Taylor thanked all for their words and music. He added that he’d never married or had a family. To that, statement, Robin Young replied warmly, “Fred, we are your family.”