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Published: Sunday, 10/18/2009

Jazz radio host also formed arts workshop

Russell Charles Taylor, 76, a jazz radio host who promoted creative expression in Toledo's black community, died Monday in Darlington Nursing & Rehabilitation Center from complications of kidney and congestive heart failure.

He retired in the early 1990s from the Toledo parks and forestry division, his son, Kijuana, said.

As "Russ Charles," he was the host of jazz programs in the 1960s and '70s on WTOD-FM, which became WKLR-FM, said Robert Smith, whose show preceded his.

Later, Mr. Taylor had a weekly jazz program on WGTE-FM.

His favorites were Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk. He also was manager and occasional cornetist for a local avant-garde jazz group, Creative Spirits.

Mr. Taylor, formerly of Indiana Avenue, knew the promise and limitations of jazz.

"Jazz is in a unique cultural limbo," Mr. Taylor told The Blade in 1980.

"People don't accept it as high art, and it's too much of a high art to really be accepted as mass entertainment."

In the late 1960s, he dreamed of channeling the energy of young people into creative arts. By 1970, he had federal funding. The result was the Creative Arts Workshop, which found a home in a two-story brick building on Dorr Street.

"There's no better vehicle for rejuvenating a community than the performing and media arts," Mr. Taylor told The Blade in 1970. The building had spaces for painters, sculptors, photographers, dancers, and musicians.

The workshop "was his heart and his baby," said Mr. Smith, who is director of the African American Legacy Project. "He had a passion for stimulating the arts and for supporting African-American culture."

The Rev. Edward "Skip" Turner credited Mr. Taylor and the workshop with saving his life.

"I could have went either way, and not only me," said Mr. Turner, who came to the workshop at 18 in 1971 and got a trumpet.

"I'm still playing," said Mr. Turner, who was a member of Creative Spirits. "He invited [workshop participants] into his heart and into his family. He was patient, and he was very stern. If he smiled, you earned it."

The workshop only lasted a few years, his son said, and the building was replaced by the Mott Branch library.

Mr. Taylor continued to sketch, paint, carve, and take photos.

He was born Feb. 18, 1933, the son of Marguerite and Maynard Taylor. He was a graduate of Scott High School, where he played football, and attended a broadcasting school in Texas, his son said.

He was formerly married to Mary Taylor.

Surviving are his son, Kijuana Taylor; sisters, Marilyn Henry and Betty Brantley, and brothers, Michael and Gerald Taylor.

Memorial services will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday in St. Martin de Porres Church, Toledo.



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