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Billy Taylor Trio: Live at IAJE, New York

Performing in January 2001 at the International Association of Jazz Educators’ 28th annual conference, Billy Taylor’s trio delivered a virtuosic set. The pianist, born in Greenville, N.C., in 1921, was one of the earliest advocates, along with Stan Kenton, of teaching jazz in schools and colleges. His playing has always exhibited a strong foundation of rhythm, form and facility.

Along with his educational efforts (which began in the late ’50s and generated Jazzmobile, New York’s jazz-in-the-streets program), Taylor was an early exponent of Latin rhythms in jazz. His “Impromptu,” written in this style, inspires an aggressive performance on Live at IAJE, New York, with the pianist employing stair-stepping left-hand chords, Tatumesque runs and, later, bluesy block chords reminiscent of Erroll Garner. Chip Jackson delivers a hard-hitting bass solo that recalls Ray Brown, and Winard Harper follows with a potent, swinging drum solo.

The trio is a well-disciplined unit. Taylor’s straightahead “Conversion,” based on the chords of “Out of Nowhere,” features Jackson; “Titoro,” another Latin original by the leader, features Harper. “Body and Soul” and “Cote d’Ivoire,” the third movement from Taylor’s “Suite for Jazz Piano & Orchestra,” belong to the pianist. These performances-as well as the complete album-prove full of energy and conviction, with Taylor in complete control of dynamics, direction and moods.

Live at IAJE, New York is one of Taylor’s best albums.

Originally Published