NE:MM consider Paul Taylor a rare talent and someone we should all take note of in 2016. We asked Ray Honeybourne to explain why.
Over the course of two albums, Askance and Cusps, Paul Taylor brought an intelligent but never over-intellectualised sensibility to piano improvisation, one rooted in a general European tradition, yet with certain more distinctive features of individual national signatures, as it were.
This openness to the power of suggestion from such inspirations as Debussy, Vaughan Williams and, particularly noteworthy, eastern European public architecture (check the particularly splendid ‘Klinikak’, on Askance, by way of the Budapest underground railway network), mark Taylor out as one generously open to musical possibilities whatever their national or cultural origins.
Yet, in all his improvised tracks, he brings a fluency and a clear idea of structure. A more recent illustration, ‘Anomaly 1’ from September of this year, starts with a flurry of ideas, a gathering of energy that initially explores various possible developments quickly, before moving purposefully forward. It’s a sign of Taylor’s growing confidence that he can proceed with such ease in a particular direction of musical travel. Askance and Cusps presented a range of moods, and showed Taylor’s dexterity in creating dialogue in terms of a musical idea and then a response to that or a turn in a completely different direction, yet maintaining a coherence rather than conveying merely a miscellaneous collection of disparate thoughts.
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This is very well in evidence on ‘Lineament Two’ from the new album. There are times here when one senses Taylor considering where to take the track, and it is this pianistic manifestation of his thought process that reinforces our belief that Taylor is the last musician in the world who would take “improvisation” less than seriously. For him, improvisation most definitely does not mean lacking in formal rigour, as he continues to insist on the point he made so well in the interview, that improvisation provides “a means of playing with the structure … rather than dismantling it.” Go to the track ‘Stolen Time’, another new work from July of this year. Here, there is movement backwards and forwards, and the development with an echo of the original thought process as if to reinforce the importance of a controlled progression.
Paul Taylor has an appreciative following that is growing. Whatever our ideas about solo piano or improvisation or the classical tradition or the expansion of the musical arena brought about by jazz, we should definitely accompany Taylor on his intelligent and often exhilarating musical journeys.