Billy Taylor: Billy Taylor Trio with Earl May/Percy Brice (2003)
Taylor is often compared to Teddy Wilson because of his elegant, understated approach and easygoing stroll through material. However, he has a gift for finding unique harmonic approaches in standards, turning even the most familiar material into something unexpected. From the ballroom flourishes of “A Foggy Day” to the bouncy arpeggios that introduce “Sweet Georgia Brown” to the minor vamps in the head of “I’ll Remember April,” Taylor gives every tune his own personal stamp, one which is reminiscent of the work of Hampton Hawes and other cool-toned pianists.
However, there are also a number of Taylor originals featured that fit in quite well with the old chestnuts, including some real treasures. “Blue Clouds” is the kind of gently swinging original that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Vince Guaraldi album, and “A Bientot” has the impressionistic feel of a Bill Evans outing. Both are wistful ballads that are wonderfully composed. “Long Tom” and “It’s A Grand Night For Swinging” show Taylor’s more playful side and make ample use of a propulsive left hand and Brice’s conga-like drumming.
Most of the these tracks are short - with the exception of a thirteen-minute plus “How High the Moon,” all the tracks are single length – but that serves the trio well as they briskly move from one song to the next, creating finely crafted gems instead of examining the options from every available angle. At over 70 minutes and 17 tracks, there’s enough piano jazz here to satisfy all but the most rabid fan, and enough variety to encourage repeated listens. This could be the best classic piano jazz album by a pianist you’ve never heard of.
Track Listing: 1. A Foggy Day 2. I'll Remember April 3. Sweet Georgia Brown 4. Theodora 5. How High The Moon 6. Early Bird 7. A Bientot 8. Memories Of Spring 9. Ever So Easy 10. Day Dreaming 11. Radioactivity 12. Purple Mood 13. Long Tom 14. It's A Grand Night For Swinging 15. Blue Clouds 16. Live it Up 17. Daddy-O.
Personnel: Billy Taylor-piano; Earl May-bass; Percy Brice-drums.
Record Label: Fantasy Jazz