John Taylor Sextet: Fragment

Obscure 1975 set featuring the pianist with Kenny Wheeler, Chris Pyne, Stan Sulzmann, Chris Laurence and Tony Levin should be better known

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Jazz In Britain’s “excavations” of the recent – yet in many ways distant – past have turned up another gem in the form of this set from a band which by comparison to some seems to have slipped beneath the radar. It was previously released but only on cassette tape, on Gordon Beck’s Jaguar label, in 1975.

The recording is exemplary, with a depth and presence deep enough to suggest the ambience of the room the band is playing in. This is apparent on the opening Interfusion, a title which might have more than a trace of irony about it given Taylor’s use of the electric piano, a keyboard to which he brings as much character as he did to its acoustic counterpart.

The pronounced lyricism of the title track is similarly well served by the electric piano as the music takes on all the aspects of an environment in which the late and undoubtedly great Kenny Wheeler can thrive. He does so in a solo which characteristically is deeply lyrical even while it avoids each and every trapping of the mawkish.

Happy Landing – Easter Eve, played as an acoustic piano solo, has Taylor’s composerly stamp all over it and leaves this reviewer melancholically pondering whether we’ll see his like again. As for Chris Pyne, my opinion of his work on Irene is so high that I’ve now slotted him into my memory as a worthy companion for Nick Evans and Malcolm Griffiths.

On the extra-musical level, learning about the circumstances in which this music was captured affords a snapshot of a world now passed, where values might have been different but musical substance carried more weight than any marketing, such as it might have been. How quaint.

Discography
Interfusion; Fragment; The Other One/1; Happy Landing – Easter Eve; The Other One/2; Room For Improvement; For Chris; Irene (60.18)
Kenny Wheeler (t, flh); Chris Pyne (tb); Stan Sulzmann (ts, ss, f); Taylor (p, elp); Chris Laurence (b); Tony Levin (d). London, January 1975.
Jazz In Britain JIB-32-S-CD