For as long as any of his loved ones can remember, Scott Taylor loved music. So after he died at age 55 recently following a long illness, they sent him home with a band that was formed in his honor playing his favorite songs.
Legendary in Baltimore and beyond for his skill on the trumpet, saxophone and trombone, the life of Taylor, a former member of George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic, was celebrated Feb. 2 with warm sentiments and rousing music at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Towson, where he attended.
The band that provided the music was comprised of 20 local and internationally-known musicians, who got together to send Taylor off in high fashion as they marched into the service New Orleans-style. On tenor and alto sax, trumpet, trombone, guitar and keyboard, the Scott Taylor Memorial Band drew thunderous applause presenting some of his favorite hymns, including vibrant arrangements of “Amazing Grace” and “To God be the Glory.”
“He touched a lot of people because of his kind spirit,” said Bernard Douglas, 48, who played with Taylor for several years. A police officer by day, Douglas said Taylor helped him master the trumpet, flute, and horn. “Scott Taylor was a good friend and a good music mentor. He was one of Baltimore’s treasures.”
News of the death, from congestive heart failure and complications of pneumonia, hadn’t come as a shock to those who loved him. Many had been by Taylor’s side in the month he’d spent at a local hospital before passing on Jan. 28.
“It was his faith that kept him yet alive. He was serious about the Lord,” said Rev. Avery N. Penn, who shared fond memories of Taylor playing with the church band and borrowing a “red book” of hymns. “Every Sunday he would come in and he would have a new song. I bet he would work on every song about a month because he would say ‘I can’t present anything to the Lord unless it’s right.’
“He’d come in and reach in his bag and pull out the long, straight sax and play it. Another time he’d come in and pull out a baby sax, or an alto sax and play it,” said Penn, drawing laughter with his recollection of Taylor’s dedication to liturgical music, even as he traveled the world with some of the nation’s most notorious funk bands.
Taylor had kept his sense of humor, even in his last days. He had made his peace with death and even joked about the pace of his own musical funeral service.
“’Don’t push them so fast, take them slow,’” Taylor told his pastor. “’But don’t take it so slow that my reed would dry.’”
Taylor was born to Queen Esther Taylor and Robert Alexander, Sr., in Baltimore on Oct. 2, 1957. At age 9, teachers at Winston Elementary School introduced him to the clarinet and he became a gifted player.
“Scott began with the clarinet, but he didn’t stop there,” according to his obituary. He later mastered the flute, clarinet, soprano, oboe, alto, baritone saxophone, piccolo, and bassoon. Taylor was also a song writer and composer. “He could listen to a selection and write music for each instrument in the band,” the obituary said.
He attended Fredrick Douglas High School, where he made a name for himself. After graduating in 1975, he began to etch out his own space in the Baltimore music scene by performing with bands such as the Gay Street One Band and Hot Flesh. By age 19, he was teaching at Baltimore’s internationally-renowned Peabody Institute, and high schools such as Edmondson High and his alma mater.
Taylor earned a degree from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 1979, where he honed his skills in the Jazz Ensemble, led by Dr. Bob Levy. After graduating, he went on the road with groups such as Egypt, the Four Tops and the New Century Platters. In 1997, he joined the P-Funk All-Stars, playing the saxophone, clarinet and flute.
Though he traveled the world, Taylor never lost touch with the local music scene. In 2010, he created his own band, Scott Taylor TNT, while also hitting local stages with funk bands like Let the Monkey Go.
“He taught us everything we know from P-Funk and he made it so we could play on the big stage,” said Rufus Roundtree, who first began playing with Taylor five years ago.
“I was never a soloist until Scott made me,” said trumpet player Ronald Roland. “In 20 or 30 years, I know everyone will be talking about his power, but I hope they will also be talking about how much of an educator he was. Everybody that played with Scottie walked away with something better.”