John Taylor: Requiem for a Dreamer (2011)

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John Taylor: Requiem for a Dreamer
It's been three years since John Taylor's last trio disc, but this time the British pianist takes a small detour, rather than continue the winning streak of Angel of the Presence (Cam Jazz, 2006) and Whirlpool (Cam Jazz, 2008). Requiem for a Dreamer reunites Taylor with his longstanding trio—Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson
Palle Danielsson
Palle Danielsson
b.1946
bass, acoustic
and British drummer Martin France
Martin France
Martin France
b.1964
drums
—but with the addition of saxophonist Julian Arguelles
Julian Arguelles
Julian Arguelles
b.1966
saxophone
., he makes an inspired choice, capitalizing on the chemistry of the trio while adding a fourth voice who provides some fresh blood without being an entirely unknown quantity.

Taylor has long followed a general modus operandi that combines his own writing with material from longtime musical partner, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
1930 - 2014
trumpet
, and others. With Requiem, Taylor breaks with tradition to deliver a set of all-new originals, inspired by the writings of Kurt Vonnegut. Beyond the titles—"Ice 9" referencing Cat's Cradle (1963), and "Unstuck in Time" and "So It Goes" to the late American satirist's seminal Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)—Taylor's inspirations remain largely internal, with the exception of the angular "Calypso 53," which draws liberally from the lyrics of "53rd Calypso," a song attributed to Cat's Cradle's Bokononism cult. Uncredited voices deliver bits of its lyrics, the "Nice, nice, very nice" refrain fitting perfectly with Taylor's 5/4 groove, driven by Danielsson's ostinato and France's second line-inspired but looser and more delicate pulse.

"Somebody I Used to Be" mirrors the harmonic language of "Calypso 53," though the rhythmic approach is different. Introduced by a lengthy opening bass solo, its smoother 6/8 pulse drives a piano/sax melody, coalescing as a lead-in to Argüelles' soprano solo, the saxophonist moving gradually into upper register cascading runs, before winding down as a setup for Taylor's characteristically motif-driven solo. Taylor's relationship with Danielsson goes back to the mid-1990s and four albums with Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
b.1954
drums
's ECM trio, and while the trio parted ways after 1999's Juni on philosophical grounds—the drummer aiming for greater simplicity as Taylor's own harmonic conception was densifying—it's clear that the pianist and bassist form an ideal partnership, the language developed along with France far surpassing his admittedly fine collaboration with bassist Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
b.1953
bass
and drummer Joey Baron
Joey Baron
Joey Baron
b.1955
drums
on Rosslyn (ECM, 2003).

The disc is bookended by two different versions of the title track. The first opens with Taylor alone, dark-hued and spare, building into a duo with Argüelles (again, on soprano), the haunting melody reflecting Taylor's personal ability to combine spare, approachable lyricism with more abstruse leanings, bolstered by Danielsson's deep-toned, note-perfect choices locking with France's gently framing brushwork. Argüelles adopts a grittier tone on the second version with a more expressionistic tenor solo, as the rest of the group enters—France on sticks this time—for a more vivid take that still manages to wind down for a conclusive set-closer.

Taylor's records never impress with overt demonstrations. Instead, the pianist has patiently built a discography reflecting a lifelong commitment to slowly, inexorably pushing the envelope. Requiem for a Dreamer does just that, but in the quietest, most unassuming way possible; an absolutely gorgeous record where everyone shines without ever breaking a sweat.

Track Listing: Requiem for a Dreamer; Somebody I Used to Be; Ice 9; Unstuck in Time; So It Goes; Calypso 53; Requiem 2.

Personnel: John Taylor: piano; Julian Argüelles:tenor and soprano saxophone; Palle Danielsson: double-bass; Martin France: drums.

Record Label: CAM Jazz

Style: Modern Jazz


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