"Tony Taylor could not be in a room with anyone more than five or 10 minutes without raising his voice about something," observes Bob Wilson, artistic director of Lettumplay, the arts organization that Taylor founded. "I was in the office with him 4 1/2 hours on Feb. 29 and he never raised his voice once. I was a computer bank, and Tony was feeding me everything I needed to know. The last words I heard from him were, 'One day this will all be in your hands.' And the next afternoon Tony left us."
The late Tony Taylor, impesario, scat singer and creator in 1976 of Lettumplay, was a prominent presence in the D.C. jazz community for nearly three decades until he died of a heart attack March 1. The Bohemian Taverns, which he ran from the '50s until it closed in the late '60s, booked the likes of Dizzy Gillespie. Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
A benefit concert for Lettumplay at Blues Alley tomorrow night will feature the Marshall Keyes Quintet. Wilson describes Lettumplay in terms of "preserving the art form of jazz -- this was Tony's dream" and "getting the music to the people who can't get to the music. We've been doing hospitals, senior citizens homes, elementary schools, and prisons. We took a crew in May to Alderson, W. Va., the larlgest women's penitentiary on the East Coast, one of the most unique experiences we've had -- the love, the vibrations that were exchanged between our musicians and the women were tremendous. We've been getting letters from them how their creativity is beginning to bud again. That's one of the things we're about -- geting the music to you."