In jazz, whether right or wrong, instrumentation carries associations. If you put saxophone, trumpet, bass, and drums together, a portion of jazz fans will automatically think of Ornette Coleman
before they hear a note; if you bring together clarinet, vibraphone, piano, and drums, many listeners will immediately move toward Benny Goodman
; and if you build a brass ensemble bolstered by drums, you're bound to get thoughts of Lester Bowie
's Brass Fantasy. Those artists who got there first, did it best, and/or broke new ground with a less-than-commonplace lineup are, logically, the ones that we often recall or go back to.
In the case of a tenor saxophone-fronted trio with bass and drums, Sonny Rollins
is usually the go-to reference point. With the release of A Night At The Village Vanguard
(Blue Note, 1958), Rollins proved that a brave and musically astute soul could beat the odds, successfully establishing and navigating harmonic parameters while swinging away and duking it out with bass and drums. After that, every other tenor who took to that format was doomed to be compared to Rollins. Enter Sam Taylor. For this, his first record, Taylor chose to present a working trio, featuring bassist Aidan O'Donnell
and drummer Taro Okamoto
. The music this band deliversnot unlike Rollins' work in this type of settingalternately swings, prances, and sighs. And Taylor even tackles Rollins' "Why Don't I," further inviting comparison to the Saxophone Colossus. But let's stop there. For as common and understandable as these comparison acts may be, they remain odious and, at least in this case, a bit misguided. Nobody should have to bear the weight of comparison against Rollins, and when it comes to tone quality, improvisational tactics, and musical comportment, Taylor is his own man, built firmly in the tradition yet speaking with his own sense of purpose.
With My Future Just Passed
, Taylor demonstrates that presence need not be associated with excess, patience and space have their place, and every strong player, regardless of the instrument in their hand, is a rhythm man at heart. Across these nine tracks he shows himself to be a mature musician who's wise beyond his years. Instead of trying to find the "new thing," working a progressive agenda, or throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, he makes his mark by doing what he does best: swinging along, singing ballads through his horn, batting it around with Okamoto, and selling the songs with a straight pitch.
The first two numbers on the albumthe lively "Love Me Or Leave Me" and the beautifully direct "My Future Just Passed"mark Taylor as an old soul, and everything that follows just helps to confirm that initial impression. He charms with the gently coasting "She's Funny That Way," cheerily glides along over his band mates as they embark on "Eronel," visits "You Are Too Beautiful" all by his lonesome, and focuses in on his rapport with Okamoto on a duo performance of "T.O.'s Blues." There's no insane reharmonization here, no blisteringly fast tempos, no knotty compositions, and no maze-like metric games. Taylor just dishes it out straight and honest, and in this case, that's enough to do the job.