Slideshow: Jazz Luminaries Share Stage in Honor of Fred Taylor

Mike Keefe-Feldman
September 20, 2017
Jazz stars come together to salue Fred Taylor in support of a scholarship in his honor at Berklee
Grace Kelly B.M. '11
Pat Metheny '96H
Terri Lyne Carrington B.M. ’83 ‘03H, Zildjian chair in performance with the Berklee Global Jazz Institute
Kurt Elling
Danilo Perez B.M. ’88, artistic director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute
Assistant Professor Jason Palmer
Robin Young, host WBUR's "Here and Now," co-hosts the tribute to Taylor
Catherine Russell
Fred Taylor
Fred Taylor, Boston’s beloved impresario, was honored with a concert featuring several of jazz’s brightest stars at the Berklee Performance Center, with proceeds benefiting the Fred Taylor Scholarship Fund at Berklee.
Saxophonist, vocalist, and composer Grace Kelly B.M. ’11, performing here with virtuosic pianist Monty Alexander, organized the benefit concert. Kelly first performed for Taylor when she was 14 years old. Kelly told the crowd that Taylor’s response was, “I want to book your band,” which gave her the encouragement she needed to get started on her path in music.
Special guest Pat Metheny ’96, who taught at Berklee as a young man, reflected on how, earlier in his career, his focus on the music didn’t always lead him to consider who was behind the scenes making it happen, and took the opportunity to share his appreciation for Taylor’s life’s work.
Grammy-winning drummer and composer Terri Lyne Carrington B.M. ’83 ‘03H, Zildjian chair in performance with the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, first met and started learning from Taylor, and many of those he booked, at the age of 8.
Grammy-winning vocalist Kurt Elling dazzled the crowd with his scat-laced vocal performances. Of Taylor, Elling said, “He was faithful” to his love of music and to those who make it.
Grammy-winning pianist and composer Danilo Pérez B.M. ’88, artistic director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, performed and shared stories of Taylor’s kind nature.
Critically acclaimed trumpeter Jason Palmer, an assistant professor at Berklee who recently led a septet of Berklee students at the Newport Jazz Festival, served as music director for the evening’s invigorating repertoire.
Robin Young, host of WBUR’s "Here and Now," regaled the crowd with tales of frequent phone calls from Taylor about new music and musicians. The calls, she said, often began with the phrase, “You’ve got to hear this.”
Jazz vocalist Catherine Russell led the full lineup of performers on the evening’s finale, Shirley and Lee’s “Let the Good Times Roll,” bringing the capacity crowd to its feet.
As the concert concluded, the crowd began chanting, “We love Fred!” Taylor continues booking jazz gigs in the area, including the Jazz and Heritage Series at the Cabot in Beverly, Massachusetts.
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson

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?