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Fred Taylor, Boston’s Beloved Jazz Impresario, Dies at 90

As a promoter, club owner, and fan, he helped keep the New England music scene vital for more than half a century

Fred Taylor receiving JazzBoston’s Roy Haynes Award in 2014 (photo: Kofi Poku)

Jazz impresario Fred Taylor, who presented legends and emerging artists alike in the Boston area for more than five decades, died on Oct. 26. He was 90. As the founder of two of the Massachusetts capital’s most important jazz clubs—Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop—Taylor promoted artists such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Charles Mingus during the height of their careers. He went on to book jazz and even some pop music at venues throughout New England, including the club Scullers, which he ran for more than 25 years. Taylor had been battling cancer for the last few years, but he was still a ubiquitous presence on the Boston jazz scene.

Born in Boston on June 29, 1929, Taylor was raised in nearby Newton. Although he studied piano as a youth and played a little drums, it was as a fan and advocate of jazz that he found his calling. Like many young people in the 1940s and ’50s, Taylor was captivated by a new form of jazz called bebop, typified by artists like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He got a degree from Boston University, but jazz became his major area of study, and he took it in the way most aficionados do: going to see live shows, collecting albums, listening to the radio, and simply hanging out. His parents owned a mattress and upholstery business, at which he worked while gaining his jazz legs.

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