Jamie Taylor & Java: Cat Dreams (2008)
With Cat Dreams, UK guitarist Jamie Taylor combines his high-energy chops with a hard swingin' rhythm section to produce an album that is sure to bring him greater recognition in North America. Jamie Taylor has become known as a young lion on the British jazz scene, as he regularly performs with some of the country's top musicians and at many of the islands hottest jazz venues. Aside from being an accomplished performer, Taylor is also the course leader for jazz at the Leeds College of Music, one of the most recognized music schools in the UK.
All of the compositions, except "A Thousand Ships," were written and arranged by Taylor and the other members of his band, Java. Apart from their contributions as composers and arrangers, the rhythm section shines throughout Cat Dreams. Pianist Jamil Sheriff's comping is intricate yet solidly locked into the time, good examples of which can be heard on the tunes "Dartford Crossing" and "Just Us." Sheriff's comping never gets in the way of the soloist. Instead, he is able to lift Taylor to new levels of creativity with his rhythmic and melodic undertones. The rest of the rhythm section, Garry Jackson bass and Nick Smalley drums, work very well together. Neither musician will jump out and take over a tune, but their subtle cues and interactions help lead the soloists into new directions, while maintaining solid time and feel throughout.
Taylor's playing is a good mix of modern experimentation and traditional bebop vocabulary. Taylor approaches each solo as a part of that particular tune, never treating a solo as separate from the song itselfa great example of this being his solo on the tune "Life After Big Sam." His ability to keep the groove, feel and melody of any tune going during his improvisations creates a guide through each of his improvised solos. This is not to say that Taylor does not take chances and experiment, but he has an uncanny ability to navigate through these more interesting moments, rather than lose them along the way.
Cat Dreams is a solid release from one of the UK's top up-and-coming guitarists. While Taylor does not reinvent the wheel with his approach to the traditional guitar quartet setting, he has produced an album that is enjoyable and intellectually stimulating. The tunes are well-written, the solos creative and the band is always groovin.' What else could one want from a jazz guitar album?
Track Listing: Just Us; A Thousand Ships; Life After Big Sam; Cat Dreams; The Long Window; Dartford Crossing; The Travelator.
Personnel: Jamie Taylor: guitar; Jamil Sheriff: piano and Fender Rhodes; Garry Jackson: double and electric bass; Nick Smalley: drums.