John Taylor: Angel of the Presence

In the last three years, CamJazz, based in Rome, has been the single most important source of recorded Italian jazz for the U.S. market. Recently the label has also ventured outside Italy to find artists, while retaining its reliable taste and production values.

John Taylor is probably the best jazz pianist in England. He has been making records since 1971. Angel of the Presence is surely among his strongest. It is also his best sounding album-a high compliment considering that Taylor has recorded for ECM. (CamJazz often uses Bauer Studios in Ludwigsburg, where ECM recorded in their early years. The engineer here is Johannes Wohlleben.)

Taylor is an improviser with a highly developed sense of form and narrative. For many jazz pianists, clever navigation of the keyboard is an end in itself. But Taylor’s interest in the six songs here (two originals, two by Kenny Wheeler, two by Steve Swallow) is to create piano-trio orchestrations that tell stories. Even pieces whose titles suggest tentativeness (“Intro to No Particular Song,” “Afterthought”) sound inevitable and complete in Taylor’s hands.

The great Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson and under-recognized British drummer Martin France contribute elaborative details (beautifully captured by Johannes Wohlleben) that deepen the meanings of Taylor’s designs.