With an insatiable appetite for music on the fringe, drummer Chad Taylor has been an active participant in the creative music environments of both Chicago and New York. In Chicago, he's been a member of Fred Anderson's trio, Sticks and Stones with Matana Roberts, and the Chicago Underground ensembles with Rob Mazurek. In New York, he's performed with Digital Primitives, known for its visceral abstract funk, as well as with Marc Ribot's Spiritual Unity.
Taylor, who was heavily influenced by AACM drummer Steve McCall, is distinctly percussive and not confined to any particular style. Circle Down is unusual in that it eschews many of Taylor's group work in favor of his own identifiable music. It represents his most accessible recording to date, leading a spectacular trio with the impressive bassist Chris Lightcap, and the increasingly brilliant pianist Angelica Sanchez.
The ten compositions are cerebral and kinetic, yet thoroughly engaging, as the trio moves with symbiotic precisioncountering and interacting with one another as the electricity flows. The first three tracks set the momentum; the ruminative groove in Lightcap's "Box Step" displays the bassist's muscularity and lyricism. "Specifica"'s Latin and total avant-garde slant is highlighted by a breathtaking tempo and Sanchez's incredible frenetic playing. The impressionistic colors of Sanchez's "Rock" contains open-composition and dyad sequences with a march-style cadence and melodic counterpoint.
Whether providing exquisite "cymbalism" in "Miriam" (a lovely tune dedicated to his wife), or delivering Brazilian carnivalesque fare with hard bop rhythms in "Pablo," Taylor threads an array of astounding patterns and cadences. The trio's intensity is hyper-punctuated by "Pascal" where Lightcap's reverberating bass cuts the path for Taylor's ubiquitous drumming and Sanchez's emblazoned keys. There are some recordings that just sparkle with energy and Taylor's Circle Down is one of them.