Recognized for his strong sense of swing, expert control of dynamics and deep melodic sensibility, Art Taylor has been placed on the list of the elite of hard bop drummers, alongside Max Roach and Elvin Jones.
Arthur S. Taylor Jr. was born on April 6, 1929 in New York City. Taylor’s parents were of Jamaican descent, and as a child, his father took him to see drummers Chick Webb, Jo Jones and J.C. Heard. Around the age of seventeen, he went to a jam session and was so excited by what he heard that he resolved to become a drummer himself.
The following Christmas, Taylor’s mother gave him his first drum set, and within a month he began working as a drummer, eventually performing with a group in Harlem, including tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, and pianist Kenny Drew..
In 1950, Art joined bassist Oscar Pettiford’s trio alongside pianist Wynton Kelly , with whom he made his first recording before driving to Chicago to open for bandleader Duke Ellington.
Max Roach then recommended Taylor to play in Bud Powell’s band, which in turn led to opportunities to perform with Ellington, singer Dinah Washington and pianist Count Basie.
During the 1950s Taylor also recorded with Bud Powell, who helped to increase the drummer’s visibility, and by the mid-1950s, he had performed and recorded with trumpeter Miles Davis. During this time, he formed and led his own ensemble, “Taylor’s Wailers.”
By the late 1950s, Taylor had become the house drummer for Prestige Records, with nearly 300 records with a host of noted musicians, including John Coltrane on his monumental album Giant Steps. In 1958, Art made his first trip to Europe with trumpeter Donald Byrd .
By 1963, Taylor decided to relocate to Paris, France, deciding to stay in Europe, in part because of his growing disillusionment with the American jazz scene. After relocating to Europe, Taylor authored Notes and Tones, a frank and influential book of interviews with fellow African-American jazz musicians. Taylor died on February 6, 1995 at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan at age sixty-five.