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"Aubade," the first track on this disc, won guitarist/composer Tom Taylor the Musician magazine "best unsigned band" contest in 1997. The tune does reveal the workings of an exceptional musical mind. Folky melodies bump up against harmonic and rhythmic concepts borrowed from classical and jazz fusion. Taylor’s multi-tracked acoustic and electric guitars mesh with David Grisman’s mandolin, Joe Caploe’s vibes, Rick Steffens’s bass, and Curt Moore’s drums to create an appealing example of what’s been dubbed "new acoustic music."
Taylor continues in this eclectic vein with "Pasque March," built around a Bach-like guitar/mandolin pas de deux (Joe Weed replaces Grisman and doubles on mando-cello). Erik Golub joins on viola for "Swamp Fox," another 6/8 piece that veers more toward rock. The Kronos Quartet is recruited for the introduction to "Big Basin Breakdown." Following the consonant (by Kronos standards) classical section, the piece breaks into a brisk bluegrass feel and Grisman contributes a strong mandolin solo. Vibes and violin play unison passages that are tight and compelling. Something about the classical/bluegrass juxtaposition, however, strikes me as a little too cute.
Unfortunately, things get more electric from there on, and the tasteful universe of "Aubade" is thrown over for progressive rock somewhere in between Kansas and John Tesh. The penultimate track, a harpsichord-like acoustic guitar arrangement of "Greensleeves," brings some relief. And Kronos is back with shimmering, impressionistic effects on the lovely coda of "The Crossing."
Taylor’s stuff is highly complex and highly arranged, with many perfectly executed twists and turns. But the compositions never settle into anything; they don’t breathe. Ideas flit by and aren’t given time for development. That said, his technical mastery and his taste for colorful instrumentation do have a way of pleasing the ear at times. Perhaps next time around he’ll err on the side of simplicity.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.