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Chris Taylor: Nocturnal

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Guitarist Chris Taylor’s debut release as a leader won’t endear him to purists. Not only does it feature electronic instrumentation, but many pieces include synthesized snippets and sampled beats or vocalized chants. There’s also no working band. Instead, the disc has a revolving lineup with several names from the improvisational world’s experimental end. Taylor recruited multiple drummers, bassists and keyboardists for the date, plus multi-instrumentalist Steve Tavaglione and guitarist John Czajkowski. Yet while this may not be a blowing session in the traditional sense, it unites kindred spirits in its freewheeling 10-song program.

Tavaglione’s rich sax gives soul to the opening cut, “Voices in My Head,” and Taylor’s playing provides its jazz core. The atmospheric, cinematic touches of “Nocturnal” and “Recluse” spotlight the leader’s interest in mood rather than volume or energy: The former has an elegant, pastoral tinge while the latter is hypnotic and fleeting, leaving the listener wanting more at the close of its roughly four-minute run time.

Those who prefer music with more punch can skip to “Ear to the Rail,” in which Taylor’s playing becomes forceful and the drum/bass tandem of Tracey Kroll and Kevin Freeby builds a formidable groove. Keyboardist John Findlay adds extra flavor with deft, crisp phrases.

Many people burned out on fusion decades ago, but Taylor and his comrades prove there is still creative life left in the genre.

Originally Published