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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.

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