Pianist Betty Loo Taylor — widely recognized by local musicians as Hawaii’s “First Lady of Jazz” — died early today at Palolo Chinese Home, her husband confirmed.
Ken Taylor said his wife had been fighting pneumonia after suffering a stroke about six months ago. She was found unresponsive by nurses during a routine check around 1 a.m. today.
Taylor, 87, was a child prodigy who became a classically trained pianist and left Hawaii in the 1940s to attend school and play music in New York City. After returning home in the 1950s, she continued to perform regularly in Waikiki, including extended residencies at Trappers in the 1970s and ‘80s with singer Jimmy Borges before moving on to the Kahala Resort, where she played in the 1990s and 2000s. (Borges died May 30 at the age of 80.)
In 2003, Taylor was the subject of a documentary, “They Call Her Lady Fingers: The Betty Loo Taylor Story.” She won a Na Hoku Hanohano award in 2008 for jazz album of the year with Joy Abbott, followed by a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
Betty Loo Taylor is survived by her husband and daughter, Karen Lindsey. Services are pending.