Billy Taylor is primarily known for bringing jazz to a wider audience through radio, television, and, in the case of the Jazzmobile, the streets of the city. But along the way he also recorded some fine jazz albums as well.
The two sessions featured on this reissue are trio dates that are a little bit unusual in their conception. The first, 1960's Warming Up!, is a series of recordings done for a radio transcription agency. All are tunes written by Taylor's wife, and due to the restrictions of the format, they're brief, in most cases around three minutes in length. They feature all manner of piano stylings from soul jazz to Bill Evans-style cool swing, and they are notable for their instantly catchy melodies; there's no time to develop anything too complex or evolving. It's a testament to Taylor's gifts as an improviser that many of these songs often seem longer than they actually are because they are overflowing with interesting variations of the melody.
The second session, 1961's Interlude, is a concept album of sorts, tracing a love affair from beginning to end. Although it's hard to pick up on the idea without consulting the liner notes, the songs obviously become progressively more wistful and plaintive, with the exception of the final track, "All Alone," a bouncy tune that suggests that for this particular individual there is light at the end of the tunnel. A project of this sort in the wrong hands would turn into melodrama, but Taylor seems content to string together a series of originals in a meaningful way. And lovely melodies they are, too, regardless of whether or not you buy into the concept.
Taylor has a light, breezy touch about him that suits his appealing compositions; all of these songs sound like songs you've heard before and liked, but can't quite place. Once again he has proven that as an ambassador of jazz, Taylor can speak articulately using both his voice and his instrument.
Personnel: Billy Taylor - piano; Henry Grimes - bass (1-12); Doug Watkins - bass (13-21); Ray Mosca - drums.