At 77, pianist Billy Taylor serves the jazz world through his profiles of musicians on CBS-TV’s Sunday Morning, and as host of NPR’s Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center broadcasts. Taylor’s book for Hal Leonard,The Billy Taylor Collectionis due out in January 1999.
Versed in all aspects of solo piano performance, Dr. Billy Taylor demonstrates different piano styles for his audience, styles that range from stride piano to bebop and into hard bop improvisation. "Tea for Two, with all its allegiance to Art Tatum, portrays Taylor’s love for fresh improvisation. As Nat Hentoff’s liner notes point out, the standard songs in the set sound as if Taylor were "playing them for the first time." Additional information concerning the pianist’s solo piano performances may be found at http://www.arkadiarecords.com .
Taylor demonstrates his ability to explore right from the start of the session, as he begins "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" by repeating the opening phrases and fading each one. With this dreamy introduction completed, he then launches a familiar upbeat approach to the classic tune. While "Laura" moves in and out of rubato with lush drama, Cole Porter’s "Night and Day" runs light and effervescent with an embellished theme flying over the keyboard. Taylor’s compositions "Solo," "Can You Tell by Looking at Me?" and "Early Bird" offer contrasting styles, as one portrays the lush ballad without rhythmic shackles, another moves slowly and deliberately with respect paid to its beautiful melody, and the other runs through bebop territory with included side quotes. Clifford Brown’s "Joy Spring" runs pleasantly through the scenery of a laid-back jazz standard, then allows space for Taylor to explore the kind of improvisation he does so well. Bop accents and a sense of never-end! ing motion keep the listener’s head moving and foot tapping. Duke Ellington’s "In a Sentimental Mood" places an emphasis onsentimental, as Taylor portrays the piece without definite rhythm. It serves as a vehicle for the pianist to wander in and out of the musical theme in much the same way that he wanders in and out of an interesting conversation. Recommended.
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.