The not-for-profit Jazz In Britain label is one of the unsung heroes of British jazz. And if it is being sung, apologies, it deserves to be sung louder. While it is fitting that the musicians who make up London's new alternative jazz scene receive a massive shout out, the players who came before them, who paved the way for British jazz's current explosion, tend to get overlooked.
John Taylor's Fragment, recorded live in London's Capital Radio studio in 1975, is one such rediscovered treasure. It was released on fellow pianist Gordon Beck's cassette-only label, Jaguar, and promptly disappeared without trace. It was Taylor's third album, and his second fronting his sextet. On all but two tracks, he plays electric piano. The lineup is trumpeter and flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler, tenor and soprano saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, who is also heard on flute, trombonist Chris Pyne, bassist Chris Laurence and drummer and percussionist Tony Levin. Two years later, Taylor went on to form Azimuth with his wife, the singer Norma Winstone, the duo soon becoming a trio with the addition of Wheeler.
Taylor's 1970s sextet has been overshadowed by Azimuth and his later recordings as a bandleader, but the two albums which were releasedthe first was Pause, And Think Again (Turtle, 1971), which also featured Winstonedeserve wider currency. Taylor was not just a lyrical and harmonically adventurous composer, his architecturally conceived arrangements could make a mid-sized band sound practically orchestral, and he pulls the trick off often on Fragment. The music is energetic, complex without being difficult, and often intense. To complete the picture, Taylor and the three horns are in fine soloing form, as is bassist Laurence, who gets several opportunities to shine on the 17 minute "For Chris."
It all adds up to a great album.
Interfusion; Fragment; The Other One 1; Happy Landing / Easter Eve; The Other One 2; Room For Improvement; For Chris; Irene.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz. He was previously the editor of the pioneering magazine Black Music & Jazz Review, and more recently editor of the style / culture / history magazine Jocks & Nerds.