Linley Hamilton: Taylor Made (2011)
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It's rare that an artist names an album after one of his sidemen, but Belfast-based trumpeter Linley Hamilton clearly values the contributions that pianist Little Johnny Taylor made to this recording. Both men share a vision, regarding the manner in which they should address traditions while also putting their own stamp on these well-known numbers, and their empathetic rapport is evident from the very start.
Linley's horn coasts over Taylor's tremolo licks on the loose introduction of the album-opening "Without A Song," immediately establishing a connection, but the real magic occurs later in the track. After some swinging quartet interplay and strong trumpet soloing, drummer Dominic Mullan and bassist Dan Bodwell bid Linley and Taylor adieu for a bit, leaving them to weave their simultaneous soloing into sublime strands of sound. From that moment on, both men show a strong artistic commitment to one another and the music benefits from this alliance. When a song takes on a solemn tone, as on the introduction to "Fade A Little," they're all class, and when the music is joyous and grooving ("Happy People"), they perk up and party hard, with Mullan and Bodwell bobbing and bouncing along.
While Hamilton's warm and breathy sound suits him well in softer spots ("Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"), his playing is most impressive when the music moves in the opposite direction. Bodwell's bass lines set up a slick groove, and Hamilton is sly as can be on Paul Simon's "Have A Good Time," while Taylor clearly earns his marquee-mention in the album title with some funky finger work on Kenny Garrett's "Happy People"two positively exuberant tracks that, despite fadeout endings that put an end to the fun a bit too soon, remain the album's standouts.
While Hamilton works his way through an eclectic mix of material that speaks to his interest in music from within and outside the jazz world, he waits until the very end to tackle a certified trumpet classic, and Taylor is right there to help him bring it on home. Woody Shaw's "Rosewood" might not seem like the right fit, since the late trumpet giant's aggressive sense of style doesn't line up with Hamilton's horn ideology, but it works because of Hamilton's ability to interpret, not imitate, in his own wonderful way. That's what separates the pretenders from the true artists, and that's what makes Taylor Made such a terrific album.
Track Listing: Without A Song; Fade A Little; Happy People; My Heart's Desire; This Can't Be Love; Throw It Away; Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow; Have A Good Time; Rosewood.
Personnel: Linley Hamilton: trumpet, flugelhorn; Johnny Taylor: piano; Dan Bodwell: bass; Dominic Mullan: drums.
Record Label: Lyte Records