The Billy Taylor Trio: Custom Taylored & Uptown

Fresh Sound have combined on one CD two 1960 Taylor albums featuring his new trio with bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Ray Mosca

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This release brings together two Billy Taylor albums from 1960 where he unveiled a new trio line-up, Custom Taylored being a studio outing and Uptown a live performance captured at New York’s Prelude. Both discs originally came out on Riverside under the control of Orrin Keepnews.

The first dozen tracks constitute Uptown. They’re relatively short tracks, as the musicians had to comply with the requirements of a major radio transcription company which had conceived the project. Despite the length constrictions, the tunes illustrate the Taylor art – always tasteful, never a suggestion of a bum note. All the varied material was supplied by the pianist himself.

Notwithstanding his classical training, apart from a brief Bach-like interlude on Warming Up, Taylor comes over as the consummate jazz pianist at whatever tempo, whether it be a piece paying homage to bebop, something carrying an exotic rhythm or on a simple but effective ballad.

The nine live tunes find the trio embracing the work of Erroll Garner (La Petite Mambo), Duke Jordan (Jordu), Bobby Timmons (Moanin’) and ’S Wonderful (George & Ira Gershwin) in addition to another batch of Taylor originals, all of which allowed the group to stretch out a little more. Soul Sisters shows its gospel roots, relating to the pianist’s most famous tune I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, which became an anthem for the civil rights movement.

Billy Taylor’s career had different strands to it, taking in authorship and holding down respected educational posts. By contrast, at the end of 60s bass player Henry Grimes had disappeared from the scene after being regarded as one of the mainstays of the so called avant-garde movement, only to be rediscovered in 2002 – in straightened circumstances but very much alive.

Discography
(1) Warming Up; Easy Like; That’s Where it Is; Afterthoughts; Easy Walker; Lonesome Lover; Don’t Bug Me; Coffee Break; Ya Know What I Mean; Native Dancer; Uncle Fuzzy; No Aftertaste; (2) La Petite Mambo; Jordu; Just The Thought Of You; Soul Sisters; Moanin’; Warm Blue Stream; Biddy’s Beat; Cu-Blue; ’S Wonderful (76.11)
(1) Taylor (p); Henry Grimes (b); Ray Mosca (d). New York, 26 March 1960.
(2) as (1) but New York, 4 February 1960.
Fresh Sound FSR-CD 1122