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Taylor's Universe: Kind of Red

Dave Wayne By

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Danish multi-instrumentalist Robin Taylor is something of a musical polymath who's recorded extensively in a number of disparate musical arenas, including free improvisation (with his group Taylor's Free Universe), hard rock (with Art Cinema), electronic soundscapes, and jazz-rock fusion. With Kind of Red, Taylor's stylistic focus is firmly in the general area of instrumental progressive rock.

Taylor's appealing, evocative, minor-key compositions typically have a somber demeanor that is offset by driving, often odd-metered rhythms. Though he plays all the instruments except for the horns and the drums, Taylor's not one to grandstand. In fact, he solos very little throughout Kind of Red's eight tracks. Instead of stepping out as an improviser, Taylor applies his formidable arranging skills to produce some really memorable musical landscapes and atmospheres by juxtaposing and layering different keyboard and guitar sounds in bizarre and unexpected ways. This approach is most fully realized on "Tortugas," a compositional tour de force that frames a spooky, sludgy rubato section between harder-rocking passages based on at least four distinct, interlocking themes.

Despite the pun inherent in the CD's title, there are no obvious Miles Davis references to be heard on Kind of Red, though veteran trumpeter Hugh Steinmetz—a charter member of the '70s Danish prog rock band Burnin' Red Ivanhoe, and John Tchicai's late '60s free jazz band Nova Cadetia Danica—is the featured soloist on several tracks. Steinmetz is a joy to hear—his distinctive, flowing improvisations are among the Kind of Red's high points.

Saxophonist Jakob Mygind (ss/ts) is the CD's other principal soloist, and another wonderful musical find. He's an expressive player who has a chameleonic approach to the instrument, wailing rock 'n' roll sax like Clarence Clemons on "Salon Bleu," in a David Sanborn-on-tenor bag on "Jakriborg," and blowing eloquent Wayne Shorter-ish soprano on "Firestone," and "Crackpot Men." Versatile drummer Klaus Thrane can definitely flash the high-gloss fusion chops when needed, but stays deep in the pocket throughout much of the CD.

Though Taylor's clearly not trying to recreate the sub-genre's salad days, anyone enamored of the sort of music made by bands such as King Crimson (particularly the Mel Collins/Boz Burrell incarnation), Gentle Giant, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer will definitely enjoy this disc. Unlike a lot of '70s progressive rock, nothing Taylor does seems self-consciously complex or grandiose. There's a cinematic feel to much of Kind of Red. It's almost the musical equivalent of a Hitchcock film—intelligent, approachable, even humorous in places, but vaguely unsettling and a little weird overall.

Track Listing: Firestone; Jakriborg; Crackpot Men; Sunday Imagine; Salon Bleu; Terasso; Tortugas; Lost in Jakriborg.

Personnel: Robin Taylor: guitars, basses, keyboards, percussion, voice; Jakob Mygind: soprano and tenor saxophones; Hugh Steinmetz: trumpet, flugelhorn; Klaus Thrane: drums; Louis Nipper: Ghost Voices (5); Jan Fischer: Ghost Voices (5).

Title: Kind Of Red | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Marvel of Beauty

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