Introducing former “Scullers Jazz Club Artistic Director”
“Fred Taylor’s Jazz & Heritage Series @ the Cabot Theatre”
Written by: Doron Monk Flakes, Senior Writer
Fred Taylor booked for the Scullers Jazz Club at the Doubletree Hotel for years, bringing in acts like Norah Jones, Michael Buble and Diana Krall. Even Jamie Cullum’s first American gig was at Scullers.
These days, Taylor has taken to lighting the marquee at The Cabot Theater with the finest, most diverse music around. “You’ve always got to keep your ears open, because new young talent keeps popping up,” said Taylor. “For instance, Jake Shimabukuro. We booked him last year and he overwhelmed everyone with his ukulele. And Grace Kelly I’ve worked with since she was about 15 and she’s a helluva sax player. Joey Alexander is a 60 year old jazz pianist in the body of a 14 year old kid.”
For nearly a century, The Cabot in Beverly has been a local treasure, a dream palace at the heart of the downtown, and a welcoming gathering place for generations of North Shore residents. Sitting right on the Atlantic Ocean, it truly is a site to behold!
In his near 70 years in the music industry, Taylor has been countless artists’ gateway to Beantown. He was the booking agent for two landmark rooms at once: The Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall. Both owned by Harold Buchalter, Paul’s Mall featured more accessible contemporary acts, along with comedians like Cheech and Chong and Henny Youngman, rebel poet Gil Scott Heron, Earth Wind and Fire, Kool & the Gang, Bob Marley even BB King.
The Jazz Workshop was geared toward classic jazz like Charles Mingus or Miles Davis. Functioned as a school and a venue. Taylor booked from 1965-78. He brought in Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, George Benson and Sun-Ra. Even Billy Joel played in a blackout by candlelight. “He sang and played his piano and told little jokes, he was funny as hell,” said Taylor.
It all began for him with a handheld tape recorder he would carry around to shows. “My recording of Dave Brubeck live at Storyville was considered one of the best live recordings ever by the New York Times. It was what got Dave signed to Columbia Records.” said Taylor. “Labels were doing 3-4 minute versions of songs back then. But Dave played a 7 minute Over the Rainbow that was beautiful. Fantasy Records paid me $150 for it. In 1949, that was a good amount of money.”
From that groundbreaking tape made in Kenmore Square, Taylor continued capturing live sound and marketing the artists to big labels. This was his method of shopping organist Joey Bucci. “Joey was an incredible player and his organ had so many tones, he could give you vibraphones, anything. And he had decay on his foot pedals that made it sound like there was a bassist in the band. His left foot was a bassist of its own. He loved Count Basie, so we did a recording called Wild about Basie.” This record caught the ear of Capitol Records.
“We had the deal ready but there was a week off we needed to fill with some gigs. I found a little bar and offered to put up the band for $350 a week. That’s how I met Harold Buchalter and started booking for Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop. Everything comes from that little tape recorder.” Taylor laughed.
Taylor also credits Boston College radio with helping break artists to the area. “Bob Dylan sold out the Symphony Hall his first time out. People wondered how he was able to do that, but WRKO had a radio station devoted to promoting upcoming local shows like Peter, Paul and Mary or Creedence Clearwater Revival. It reached Boston College and surrounding areas like Worcester,” Taylor said.
Some other acts Taylor booked came with their own pedigree and following. Like fresh from self-exile Miles Davis. “Talking to Miles was like taking to a wall,” Taylor said. “I asked him a few questions, he stared straight ahead, and then he growls ‘Hey, man. I’m just here to play.’ So I said ‘We have two sets. 9 and 11. You’re in charge.’”
When the night ended, Davis opened up a little. “He asked me how the band sounded. I said ‘The band was alright. I’m sure they’ll be better on Wednesday.’ He loved it. He didn’t want anybody kissing up to him. No B.S., no flattery. We got along great after that.” Taylor said.
After the Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall closed down, Taylor took the position booking for Sculler’s in the Doubletree Hotel. Having built a dedicated fan base there, Taylor now brings his discerning ear to The Cabot. The venue boasts an impressive lineup of off the mainstream path film and live performances. The live offerings are a varied and eclectic roster ranging from Squirrel Nut Zippers’ infernal swing to George Clinton and the legendary Funkadelic. The Cabot’s 2017 series includes Joey DeFrancesco, Arturo Sandoval, John Pizzarelli Quartet, Take 6, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Glenn Miller orchestra and many more. Tickets are available at Thecabot.org.
Ethnic Online is proud to have reconnected with the legendary Fred Taylor and his Jazz & Heritage Series as well as a “media partner” for the Cabot Theatre!
Looking forward to seeing you there and spread the word, Fred Taylor is back at the Cabot Theatre and when you see Fred, tell him Ethnic Online told you!