I love piano players who swing. I especially admire 77–year–old pianists who swing like they’re 27. It follows logically that Billy Taylor would be among my favorite pianists, an assessment that is emphatically underscored by his marvelous new solo album, Ten Fingers — One Voice,
a thoroughly entrancing tour de force
on which Billy takes dead aim at half a dozen standards, two Jazz staples and three of his own compositions, and scores a sonic bull’s–eye on every one. The voice is wide–ranging and articulate, encompassing elements of bop, swing, post–bop and even some stride (on Teddi Castion’s “Easy Like”). Faint echoes of Powell and Tatum (and even Garner) surface from time to time, along with techniques employed by some of Taylor’s more talented contemporaries. What emerges, however, is Taylor’s singular approach to the music, which is always brisk and invigorating. Free to create his interpretations of these songs from whole cloth, as it were, he proves more t! han equal to the task, unbending or burning as required, with an impeccable feeling for swing and harmonics, humming softly along as he fashions some of his more rapid and sinuous improvisations. The choice of material is superb, the outcome no less so. By the time Taylor completes his ardent version of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Heart Stood Still,” chances are he’ll have won your heart as he has mine.
Track listing: Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams; In a Sentimental Mood; Joy Spring; Laura; Easy Like; Night and Day; Can You Tell by Looking at Me?; Early Bird; Tea for Two; Solo; My Heart Stood Still (52:49).
Billy Taylor, solo piano.