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Billy Taylor: Taylor Made at the Kennedy Center

Jim Santella By

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Dr. Billy Taylor and friends begin this concert performance compilation with homage to early bebop as Terence Blanchard recalls the loose, pioneering spirit of Diz and Stanley Turrentine does his best to interpret Bird's spirit in his own way. Russell Malone and Stefon Harris broaden the scope, turning Taylor's idea into a thrilling jam session that presents Jazz at the Kennedy Center with open ears and smiling faces. Tradition has been served.

Performed and recorded between 1999 and 2002, the selections heard here follow a path for which we remember John F. Kennedy: one that respected freedom and democracy while standing firm in one's own beliefs. In the same manner that Kennedy would not back down from an unwanted threat, Taylor did not ever allow this program to sell out for commercial purposes. Each artist proves that on Taylor Made at the Kennedy Center with true-to-form mainstream art of the highest caliber.

Arturo Sandoval, who Charles Osgood correctly introduces as possibly one of the greatest trumpeters in the world, interprets "Diz," another Taylor composition that honors bebop's pioneers. Steve Turré joins the ensemble and helps push this one into a creative frenzy.

All the selections are Taylor originals. "I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free" pares the band to piano, bass, and drums, as Taylor emotes from the piano keyboard in a highly spiritual affair. Prayers, jubilation, and hopes all come together for a loose, feel-good experience. Similarly, a condensed version of "Suite for Jazz Piano and Orchestra," performed by Taylor, Chip Jackson, and Winard Harper almost a year earlier, lets the sparks fly, revealing a free flow of emotions and a comfortable feel for the jazz tradition.

Taylor features guitarist Malone on "Theodora," saxophonist Turrentine on "Easy Walker" and trumpeter Blanchard on "A Bient''t." Each offers a distinctive air, contributing personal glimpses of what jazz is made of.

Billy Taylor has given us the real thing every time out. With his trio's final formal performance at the Center last March, a milestone has been crossed. It's up to everyone now to pitch in and to help keep jazz as pure and genuine as it has been at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.


Track Listing: 1. Birdwatcher; 2. If You Really Are Concerned; 3. Diz; 4. Theodora; 5. Suite for Jazz Piano and Orchestra; 6. A Bientot; 7. Titoro; 8. Easy Walker; 9. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free.

Personnel: Billy Taylor: Piano; Winard Harper: Drums; Chip Jackson: Bass. Special Guests: Terence Blanchard, Stanley Turrentine, Russell Malone, Stefon Harris, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cyrus Chestnut, Arturo Sandoval, Steve Turre.

Title: Taylor Made At The Kennedy Center | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Kennedy Center Jazz Recordings

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