Debuts on CIMP don't always engender the sort of buzz they may deserve. The reasons behind this reality are arguable and frequently stem from subjective rather than objective concerns. They range from the perennial debates over Spirit Room sound to the informal mantra of "welcome to obscurity" that seems an accepted part of their inception. The sad upshot is that intriguing players are often forced to fight an upstream battle for audience awareness. Trombonist Dave Taylor fits into this unsung niche, his 2002 debut barely registering ripples in the popular jazz press.
Taylor's sophomore disc doesn't deviate too much from its predecessor, at least on the surface. If anything, it's even less accessible and more challenging to the intrepid listener's ears. The same rhythm team of Duval and Rosen aids him in negotiating an eclectic program of folk and classical-influenced pieces ripe with opportunities for impromptu extemporization and gothic undercurrents. Where the disc does diverge is in Taylor's choice to open up his instrumentation to include regular trombone in conjunction with his bass variation of the instrument, along with vocals. Taylor also employs a stockpile of mutes, some of his own design given exotic names like Cousoozin and Zharmoot, to further transform the tonalities of his brass and voice, often in cantankerous directions. His vocals are largely employed in the service of singing the verses to Carl Sandburg and Catullus poems through the mouthpiece of his horn. The effect is oddly reminiscent of some of Tom Waits' experiments with bullhorns and megaphones.
Blending speech-like effects directly with brass may seem gimmicky, but Taylor's sincerity in the enterprise seems genuine. The brittle, flatulent split tones on "Night Shades" are just one example of the lengths he's willing adopt to avoid conventional intonation. On "Bred in Bithynia" he further tampers with the sound environment, setting up a schematic of strategically placed metronomes to further augment the trio's sound. Taylor also varies the action with four solo trombone pieces, the first three of which are through-composed. The final one comprises the first part of a larger suite and finds Taylor improvising on a series of themes by Bach. His command of the timbral aspects of his horns frequently appears startlingly complete.
Duval and Rosen offer up incisive support, especially on tracks like "Mazooma," where a murky funk beat supplies the grease for Taylor's aqueous slide-driven shimmies and later more off-the-wall shout-singing. But their roles are largely supportive and the spotlight shines most narrowly on the leader's near-virtuosic interpolations. Exceptions arise on the final two-thirds of the aforementioned suite, which offer bass and drums brief solo statements. The choice of Mingus' "Oh Lord, Please Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me" works as inspired capstone. Taylor's slurs and smears, slotted between boisterously voiced lyrics, do the memory of Jimmy Knepper proud. The odds of this disc dramatically expanding Taylor's parameters for performance and recording are probably slim. But those folks possessing the wherewithal to seek it out will likely find it a minor revelation.
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