Home » Jazz Musicians » Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor - guitar, banjo, vocals

With Otis Taylor, it’s best to expect the unexpected. While his music, an amalgamation of roots styles in their rawest form, discusses heavyweight issues like murder, homelessness, tyranny and injustice, his personal style is lighthearted. “I’m good at dark, but I’m not a particularly unhappy person,” he says.

Part of Taylor’s appeal is his contrasting character traits. But it is precisely this element of surprise that makes him one of the most compelling artists to emerge in recent years. Guitar Player proclaimed him “arguably the most relevant blues artist of our time,” while Billboard has called him “one of the most innovative, thought-provoking blues artists to emerge in the last 20 years.”

Whether it’s his unique instrumentation (he fancies banjo and cello), or the sudden sound of a female vocal, or a seemingly upbeat optimistic song takes a turn for the forlorn, what remains consistent is poignant storytelling based in truth and history.

Truth and history are at the heart of “Recapturing the Banjo,” Taylor’s fifth release on Telarc. Released in February 2008, the album explores the deepest roots of the banjo " an instrument that, despite its common associations with American folk and bluegrass, actually originated in Africa and made its way to the fledgling American colonies in the 1700s via the influx of African slaves. Entertaining and enlightening at the same time, “Recapturing the Banjo” includes performances by some of the most accomplished African-American banjo players on the current roots music scene: Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Keb’ Mo’ and Don Vappie.

“Over the years, the instrument just lost touch with its roots,” says Taylor, who has proven his banjo chops with two consecutive Blues Music Awards nominations (2005 and 2006) for Best Instrumentalist in the banjo category. “I’m just trying to re-establish that connection.”

Otis Mark Taylor was born in Chicago in 1948. After his uncle was shot to death, his family moved to Denver where an adolescent’s interest in blues and folk was cultivated. Both his parents were big music fans; “I was raised around jazz musicians,” Taylor relates. “My dad worked for the railroad and knew a lot of jazz people. He was a socialist and real bebopper.” His mother, Sarah, a tough-as-nails woman with liberal leanings, had a penchant for Etta James and Pat Boone. Young Otis spent time at the Denver Folklore Center where he bought his first instrument, a banjo. He used to play it while riding his unicycle to high school. The Folklore Center was also the place where he first heard Mississippi John Hurt and country blues. He learned to play guitar and harmonica and by his mid-teens, he formed his first groups " the Butterscotch Fire Department Blues Band and later the Otis Taylor Blues Band. He ventured overseas to London where he performed for a brief time until he returned to the U.S. in the late 60s. His next project became the T&O Short Line with legendary Deep Purple singer/guitarist Tommy Bolin. Stints with the 4-Nikators and Zephyr followed before he decided to take a hiatus from the music business in 1977. During this time he established a successful career as an antiques dealer and also began coaching an amateur bicycling team. But with much prodding from Kenny Passarelli and associates, the reluctant Taylor returned to music in 1995.

Read more

Tags

168
Album Review

Otis Taylor: Double V

Read "Double V" reviewed by Jim Santella


Backed by acoustic strings of the more intimate sort, Otis Taylor interprets his original blues tunes sincerely. His homespun voice has a little grit in it. There’s nothing fake about the way Taylor explains it. With blues harp in hand, he takes over with timeless tales and new twists.

Bringing in rotating cellists to accompany was a brilliant idea. The luster of the instrument’s timbre blends appropriately with Taylor’s fluid voice. He’s able to mourn over subjects such ...

132
Album Review

Otis Taylor: Truth Is Not Fiction

Read "Truth Is Not Fiction" reviewed by Jim Santella


Moving comfortably between acoustic and contemporary electric blues, Otis Taylor brings us an exciting new album with social commentary laced all the way through. This is his fifth album. The seasoned bluesman’s passionate volume of adventurous storytellin’ garnered several W.C. Handy Award nominations this year.

Taylor, 55, grew up in Chicago and Denver. His first love was the banjo, which gets quite a workout on Truth Is Not Fiction. Singing with a down-home ease and a genuine spirit, the bluesman ...

Read more articles
1

Recording

Visionary Songwriter Otis Taylor Returns With His Powerful And Unique Blend Of Roots Music And Narrative Poetry

Visionary Songwriter Otis Taylor Returns With His Powerful And Unique Blend Of Roots Music And Narrative Poetry

Source: conqueroo

My World Is Gone explores the struggles of Native Americans with contributions from Indigenous frontman/guitar virtuoso Mato Nanji BOULDER, Colo. — Roots music visionary Otis Taylor’s 13th album, My World Is Gone, set for release February 12, 2013 on Telarc, a division of Concord Music Group, is a lightning bolt of musical creativity and social commentary. Its songs crackle with poetic intelligence and a unique, adventurous sound that balances the modern world with echoes of ancient Africa, Appalachia and more. ...

69

Recording

Otis Taylor: New Album

Otis Taylor: New Album

Source: JamBase

HAUNTING, HYPNOTIC GROOVES FROM ICONOCLASTIC TRANCE BLUESMAN OTIS TAYLOR Otis Taylor isn't defined by any single category. A musical alchemist and a true innovator, Taylor has never been afraid to experiment beyond the blues tradition. He's a master craftsman who has created his own signature “trance blues" style by melding haunting guitar and banjo work, syncopated rhythms and a combination of gruff vocals, shouts and yells with raw passion. “When I sing, I just do what I do," Taylor says. ...

67

Recording

Otis Taylor's 'Contraband' is Iconoclastic Trance Bluesman's New CD

Otis Taylor's 'Contraband' is Iconoclastic Trance Bluesman's New CD

Source: conqueroo

Otis Taylor's Contraband features Cassie Taylor, Larry Thompson, Anne Harris, Jon Paul Johnson, Chuck Campbell, Ron Miles, The Sheryl Renee Choir and more BOULDER, Colo.—Otis Taylor isn't defined by any single category. A musical alchemist and a true innovator, Taylor has never been afraid to experiment beyond the blues tradition. He's a master craftsman who has created his own signature “trance blues" style by melding haunting guitar and banjo work, syncopated rhythms and a combination of gruff vocals, shouts and ...

94

Festival

Otis Taylor Announces Trance Jam Blues Festival Lineup, November 25-27

Otis Taylor Announces Trance Jam Blues Festival Lineup, November 25-27

Source: conqueroo

Bob Margolin, Tony Trischka, Don Vappie, George Porter Jr., Standing Bear and Cassie Taylor to appear at Thanksgiving weekend event in Boulder, Colorado Musicians, educators, singers and fans are invited to participate BOULDER, Colo.—The first annual Otis Taylor Trance Blues Jam Festival is a weekend of public workshops and jams for musicians and fans of all levels and ages who wish to join world-renowned guitarist Bob “Steady Rollin'" Margolin, Tony Trischka (International Bluegrass Music Association Banjo Player of the Year), ...

281

Recording

Otis Taylor's New Album, "Clovis People," Set for Release on May 11, 2010

Otis Taylor's New Album, "Clovis People," Set for Release on May 11, 2010

Source: conqueroo

BOULDER, Colo. -- Otis Taylor digs the past. Whether it's the songs he wrote a decade ago, or ancient civilizations that lived more than 10,000 years ago, he's drawn to stories from another time, and he's compelled to retell them in a way that's relevant in the modern day. On Clovis People, set for release May 11, 2010, on Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group, Taylor writes his own history.

It's the ideal project for the architect of ...

161

Recording

Otis Taylor:Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs

Otis Taylor:Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs

Source: JamBase

By: Dennis Cook

The most exciting, creative new voice to emerge from the blues world in the past decade continues to confound expectations on his tenth album, Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs (released June 23 on Telarc). As the title implies, the theme of love swirls in this latest baker's dozen, but the ribbons, bows and romance novel cliches are ditched for a harder, sturdier kind of love full of heat and calloused endurance.

For a musician known for sussing ...

259

Recording

Otis Taylor's 'Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs' Due out June 23

Otis Taylor's 'Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs' Due out June 23

Source: conqueroo

No one ever accused blues singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Otis Taylor of overindulging in the happier aspects of the human condition.

His songs are often peopled with characters whose emotional landscapeno matter how raw or dark is laid bare for all to experience, and the story is often less than pretty.

But if love in any or all of its joyous and painful variations is somewhere amid that confusing emotional swirl, he’ll go there too. The result will by no means be syrupy ...

Photos

Music

Videos

Similar

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.