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July/August 2001

James Taylor Quartet
The Bigger Picture
Instinct Records

Some outfits are fond of throwing you curveballs, of keeping you off balance, making you wonder what weirdness they are going to hit you with next. The James Taylor Quartet, on the other hand, succeeds by giving folks pretty much what they expect. Namely, lightly engaging soul-funk that wouldn't be out of place on a '70s action flick (these are after all the folks who scored for Austin Powers). On The Bigger Picture, keyboardist Taylor and mates do manage to find different nuances within their approach, like the drum 'n' bass-leaning "Chasing Dragons," which makes this disc sound less like Emma Peel than their pedigree would lead you to think. Even though the Brit-funk-with-vocalist approach is played, to say the least, Taylor is knowing and skilled enough to make it all sound engaging, thanks in part to vocalist Yvonne Yaney, and vibe legend Roy Ayers, who helps out on the disc-opening "Leads Me Back to You." And while Yaney is no Teddy Pendergrass, she does a creditable version of the soul nugget "Love TKO" (here simply called "TKO").

Originally published in July/August 2001
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