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Martin Taylor, the Django-inspired Englishman who shared many a stage with the late Stephane Grappelli, has developed one of the brightest, purest guitar tones in the business. At Pittsburgh’s Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in 1998, Taylor showed off that tone in a solo setting, and this recording of the event is simply stunning. Jim Ohlschmidt’s liner notes explain the unusual dual-pickup setup in Taylor’s Yamaha archtop guitar, which enables him to blend electric and acoustic signals. Taylor’s playing sings with the warmth and fullness of a traditional jazz guitar sound, but thanks to his setup he can unleash a stinging attack more commonly heard in country and acoustic blues. You can hear these aspects integrated most effectively on "Georgia On My Mind." You also get a strong dose of Taylor’s British charm when he mentions the song’s composer, Hoagy Carmichael (accent on the "michael").
Taylor works his magic on a variety of well-known standards such as "They Can’t Take That Away From Me," "I’m Old Fashioned," and "Sweet Lorraine." He also tackles jazz classics like "I Remember Clifford" and "The Dolphin" with dazzling creativity. Only on Ellington’s "In a Mellow Tone" does he come up a bit short on ideas. That’s certainly not the case, however, on "Stella By Starlight," which he reenergizes with a sunny major-key vamp — you’d expect to hear something darker — and an unusual ending on the second bar of the form. Three less frequently played tunes find Taylor in contrasting moods: tender on "Why Did I Choose You," saucy and swinging on "Lulu’s Back In Town," and adventurously modern on the finale, "Taking a Chance on Love."
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.