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John Taylor Trio: Decipher (MPS)

Review of album by British jazz pianist and his trio of bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Tony Levin

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Cover of John Taylor Trio album Decipher
Cover of John Taylor Trio album Decipher

Though the British pianist John Taylor played with a full slate of jazz greats including Charlie Haden, Lee Konitz, Jan Garbarek and Kenny Wheeler (with whom he performed in varied settings including the vocal trio Azimuth and a duo), he was seriously underappreciated on this side of the ocean at the time of his death in 2015. The reissue of this terrific 1973 album is both a great introduction to his talent and a valuable document of an important artist on the rise.

Decipher captures both the driving intensity and harmonic complexity of Taylor’s style. His trio, including bassist Chris Laurence and drummer Tony Levin, has some of the interactive chemistry of Bill Evans’ great early trio but pushes the music forward in a more aggressive, even swaggering manner. Taylor is in speed mode from the get-go, knocking out swirling, sculpted phrases on “Cipher,” an infectious modal-style tune that circles around a repeated phrase.

Even when he harmonically undresses “Cipher” on the attached tune, “Wait for Me,” or settles into the relaxed free-jazzish introduction to “Leaping,” Taylor and trio sustain their intensity. In following “Speak to Me,” a thoughtful midtempo number, with “Song for a Child,” a lovely ballad, Taylor slyly points to one of his influences, Herbie Hancock, and his classic “Speak Like a Child.” Throughout, Taylor is equally impressive attaining lyrical depths and springing, soaring heights. The superior sound of the CD (always a given with MPS) adds to the appeal of this long-unavailable recording.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Decipher by the John Taylor Trio on iTunes.

 

Originally Published