Tony Taylor, 53, a major promoter and patron of jazz and musicians in the Washington area, died at George Washington University Hospital Sunday following a heart attack.
Mr. Taylor, whose given names were Anthony Elias, but who was known to practically everyone as Tony, was born in Washington, graduated from the old Dunbar High School and served in the Army. In his younger days, he studied art at the Corcoran School of Art and at George Washington University. In 1953, however, he established the Washington Jazz Society, which booked concerts in various clubs and hotels here.
From then until his death, music was the major part of his life. This was so despite the fact that from 1953 to 1963, he made his living as an artist with the Navy Hydrographic Office. Although he was a sometime scat singer, he was not really a performer. His particular gift was as a judge of other talent and as an organizer of situations in which it could be heard by others.
In an interview published in The Washington Post on his 48th birthday, Mr. Taylor summarized his efforts in these words: "There're a lot of local dudes out there who can play some horn, man. But they don't want to leave town and make a name. So they don't get the recognition they should have. And people want to hear them. These artists have got to be heard."
From 1959 until 1968, Mr. Taylor and Angelo Alvino owned the Bohemian Caverns, a leading showcase for musicians from all over the country. In addition to booking such name performers as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and the Modern Jazz Quartet, Mr. Taylor persuaded the then unknown Roberta Flack to make some of her first public appearances there. Thereafter he helped her to national prominence. The Bohemian Caverns was forced to close following the riots that broke out after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mr. Taylor lectured at American and Rutgers universitites. In 1970, he started "Compared to What," a nonprofit group supported by public and private funds to promote the careers of local musicians. He also founded the Chang-A -- Dang Record Company. It was set up so that those "local dudes . . . (who) don't want to leave town" could make recordings and be heard elsewhere in the world.
In 1975, Mr. Taylor was named assistant chairman of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. A year later, he founded a nonprofit group called Lettumplay, whose purpose is to arrange appearances by local performers. Thus he organized jazz luncheons at the First Congregational Church, concerts at hospitals and senior-citizen centers and a series of performances at Fort Dupont Park for the "Summer-in-the-Parks," program of the National Park Service.
Last year, Mr. Taylor resigned from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to devote full time to Lettumplay, which associates said would be continued.
In 1979, Mayor Marion Barry designated April 12 as "Tony Taylor Day" in recognition of his services to the city.
Mr. Taylor's survivors include his father, George M., of Washington; a brother, George M. III, of Montreal, and three sisters, Marie A. Taylor, Marian Taylor Bass and Dr. Ollie A. Taylor, all of Washington.
The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Tony Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 8084, Washington, 20024.