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Artist Profiles

The Not So Strange and Bizarre Life of Mike Taylor

By Published: March 27, 2013
"So, I went over there carrying my double bass on the tube which one did then. There's this house looking out onto Ealing Common with these huge windows. I was gob-smacked. Then this little old lady who must have been his grandmother came in—'Would you boys like a cup of tea?'—and it came in this lovely bone china. We were all living in grotty bed-sits all over the suburbs. It was amazing."

Like many other groups, the quintet had an audition with the BBC, which they passed without it actually leading to a recording. Charles remembers that one number they did for the audition was "Take the A Train." According to Charles, Ginger Baker
Ginger Baker
Ginger Baker
b.1939
drums
(or as he was back then 'Pete Baker') was the band's first drummer.

"He was incredibly good but phenomenally loud. There was no amplification then. We were all acoustic and he just overwhelmed us. I don't know how the parting came but it was obviously amicable because later Mike wrote some numbers with him for Cream. So, they obviously kept in touch and Mike said to me, 'We're going to have to change drummers.' My fingers used to be bloodied because ridiculously you just pull so much harder with a loud drummer. It's a waste of time but everybody does it. I said, 'Who's replacing him?' He said, 'Oh, this great 17 year old drummer from Slough called Randy Jones.' If I'm going to be brutally honest, personally, I preferred playing with Randy. I'm not putting Pete down because he was a great drummer, and if we had all been amplified it would have been okay, but Randy was so much better for me personally to play with because he was very quiet and a wonderful player even at the age of 17. It was with Randy that I did the gig that I've got on the recording I made at Herne Bay Jazz club, near Whitstable in Kent."

By that point, Taylor had discovered modal jazz . "Phrygie" uses the Phrygian mode, being partly modal and partly based on chord changes. Charles still has the bass parts that Taylor wrote out for him.

Dave Tomlin had met Mike in 1961 in the Nucleus, a jazz cellar bar in the West End of London. "You could just turn up and play, if you had a pianist," he remembers. "Sometimes Davy Graham would come down and play guitar and we'd play. Then one night Mike turned up and we played with him and he began to talk to me about forming a group."

Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
b.1928
piano
was Taylor's biggest influence back then. In time, Goudie Charles left the group and Ron Rubin
Ron Rubin
b.1933
came in on bass. At various times, Chris Bateson played trumpet, and at others (as on the recording of "Phrygie") it was Frank Powell. Gigs seem to have been irregular affairs but the quintet played several times at the Modern Jazz Workshop in Herne Bay. By that time, Taylor's grandparents had moved from London to Kent, as Ron Rubin recalls.

"We used to go down there in 1962 and play at the Modern Jazz Workshop. In the afternoon, we'd go along the front and smoke pot and eat ice cream (laughing). Then we'd go to his grandparents and they'd feed us biscuits and tea like a classic granny and granddad. Sometimes we were still stoned but they never noticed (laughing)."

Marijuana was easy to come by back then, as Dave Tomlin explains, "There used to be this guy called Jimmy Fox, a trumpet player, we mostly used to get it from. No one ever heard him actually play the trumpet," he laughs. "He had a false bottom in his case, so people would think he was a musician but when he took his trumpet out he had all these deals in there. It was a good cover."

As often the case in jazz, quite who played with who and when in Taylor's group is not entirely clear. For example, Jon Hiseman
Jon Hiseman
b.1944
remembers that he took over on drums from Ginger Baker, who he understands left Mike's group to go with Graham Bond
Graham Bond
Graham Bond
b.1937
to form The Organisation. This seems to be at odds with Goudie Charles' recollections, who dates Baker's tenure as being earlier. Jack Bruce, on the other hand, remembers that he first connected with Taylor through Dick Heckstall-Smith, by which time Hiseman was playing drums in Taylor's group.

"I think Dick took me to hear this new drummer called Jon Hiseman and who was playing with Mike Taylor in Blackheath. That's how I met Mike, although I did know his brother who was a photographer and who took some very nice pictures of the Graham Bond Organisation in the very early days."

Although he later recorded with Taylor, Bruce never played any actual gigs with the pianist. So when Rubin left in 1962 to go to Mallorca to play at the Indigo Jazz Club in Palma—it was there that he came across a teenage jazz enthusiast called Robert Wyatt—it seems likely that Tony Reeves
Tony Reeves
b.1943
bass
was his replacement and, as Hiseman says, was brought in at his suggestion.


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