JJ 03/64: In My Opinion – Eddie Taylor

Sixty years ago the drummer who came to notice with Dankworth before a surprise move to Lyttelton opined on Hamp, Herman, Monk and more. First published in Jazz Journal March 1964


This is one of a series of taped interviews with musicians who are asked to give a snap opinion on a set of records played to them. Although no previous information is given as to what they are going to hear, they are, during the actual playing, handed the appropriate record sleeve. Thus in no way is their judgment influenced by being unaware of what they are hearing. As far as possible the records played to them are currently available items procurable from any record shop.

Eddie Taylor, a Lancastrian by birth, was first heard of when he came to London and accepted the job as drummer with the Johnny Dankworth Seven. Considered in those days as something of a modernist, it came as a surprise to the musical profession when two years later he was picked by Humphrey Lyttelton as the drummer for his new band. “He won’t fit into the Lyttelton pattern,” most people said – “much too modern for Humph”. But they were wrong and Humph was right. Eddie was just the drummer Humph wanted – and to prove the point he has been in that drum seat now for over seven years. The Lyttelton band have travelled fairly extensively and by so doing have provided its members with the opportunity of hearing jazz in many places and by many musicians – a fact which has no doubt done much to widen their appreciation of jazz accordingly. – Sinclair Traill

Railroad 1. Many Sides of Lionel Hampton. Ember CJS 805
I liked that, but that pianist was a bit odd – sounded like an old, out-of-tune upright he was playing. Wonder why? Ram Ramirez, doesn’t he usually play the organ? That band was the first thing I saw when I went to the States, they were playing at the Bandbox. It was a fantastic band, they all wore shorts and marched around the street playing Flying Home, whilst they showed a film in the background. He always finds those fine young musicians and I think his music can be wildly exciting. Actually that record doesn’t really sound like Hampton at all, much too subdued for him. I enjoyed the band when they were over here. There were criticisms that they were too loud and vulgar, but seeing a band like that is exciting – it’s a mood isn’t it? Hampton likes to generate excitement, jazz to him must mean excitement and I think he succeeds in doing what he sets out to do, and that’s good.

Milenburg Joys. Dutch Swing College at the Sport Palast. Philips BL 7582
Well, that didn’t exactly knock me out. I have heard that band play much better than that. They are what I would call a workmanlike group. They have hit on a formula of success, but there is a dreadful lack of subtlety in everything they do – they really ram that music down one’s throat. I can’t say it’s wrong, because I’d like to make some money as well. We did a tour with them in Germany, and although they were all very nice fellows, I couldn’t say they were playing exactly the way they feel. Anyway I hope not. The trumpet player used to come round the clubs with us, and after the show was over, he’d play wonderful trumpet. Anyway this was a concert, and no one ever plays at his best on a concert.

‘You know, the way things are going, jazz, in this country at any rate, will soon be finished’

Copper Rail. Buck Clayton – Songs For Swingers. Philips 840 039 B7
That was the wonderful band that came over here, but didn’t get nearly enough playing time on the shows they did. Herbie Lovelle, the drummer, is very tasteful, the volume he keeps is good, and he is wonderful behind the solos. I can’t bear drummers who crash and bang just for the sake of it and usually all to no purpose. I can’t say I was too mad about the pianist, but the rest of the group were very good. What I’d like to think is that when I’m their age I will still be able to play with spirit like that.

You know, the way things are going, jazz, in this country at any rate, will soon be finished. There seems to be a general feeling at present that too many people are too busy ‘putting-things-down’ all the time. I don’t mean that they shouldn’t be honest, but they are killing the music by building up an image that isn’t there. If enough people say that something is good, it is going to be believed, but if they want to get young people interested in jazz, the critics would do much better to praise what they hear instead of putting it down all the time. After all everybody is trying to do their own best, so why not give praise for what they are trying to do. I hate these record reviews that say, ‘good attempt, sounds American’. It’s rubbish! There have been lots of Americans that have come over and played with our musicians who are certainly no better than our chaps. When we’ve played in America, you don’t hear them say, ‘good for an Englishman’ – half the audience don’t know anyway. You see, when you hear Buck and company on this record, they haven’t got to try and play like Americans ’cause they are Americans – so they can give all their attention to their music.

Mind you, and I do dislike this very much, I can’t stand those modern players, who usually aren’t all that good, but who take everything they play off a record – the style, the feeling, everything has to be what the latest record is – it’s rubbish and not very honest. When a musician is 30-odd, he surely must have formed some style of his own, and not go on copying for evermore.

Body And Soul. Thelonious Monk In Europe. Riverside RLP 002
That was a lovely drummer, Frankie Dunlop. Not easy to play with Monk, he must pay close attention all the time. We did a tour with Monk, and I used to listen every night, I think he is marvellous. Mind you, if I were playing a record for pleasure I would rather play one by the group with Charlie Rouse than this Monk solo. I think his approach here is wonderful, he is always looking for the strange chord, the odd one, but I do think he finds what he is after, most of the time. He feels his music you know.

Incidentally, the first time I heard Frankie Dunlop, he was with Maynard Ferguson – a strange band, good musicians, but nothing they did to me sounded sincere. The Ellington and Basie bands when you hear them sound right and settled, they know what they are doing and feel their music. I never got that impression when listening to Ferguson. This group of Monk’s, they also sound absolutely settled – because they play with absolute confidence, without thinking about it. They just sit down and play and haven’t got to worry what it’s like, or it’s in this idiom or that style – it’s their music, it belongs to them!

Caldonia. Woody Herman – Encore. Philips SBL 7574
Well, I liked that, but I am not too crazy about that band. We heard them in New York, but I heard so much other music that had so much more to offer. I know the band is very popular, but the point I would like to make again is that people will go crazy over anything, good or bad, if it is publicised enough. To me that is just a good, big band, but it is certainly not a record I could play over and over again. The musicianship of course was very good – like the Kenton band that have just toured here, I enjoyed the show because they were all such good players. The sound of the band was good, and however much you can put down to wasted effort, because of the sound and the musicianship, they must have something to offer. Even the drummer (who is I believe really a trombonist), although he didn’t knock me out, he read those difficult band parts so well that one has to give admiration. I don’t mean to say that I think he suits say, the Ellington band, because he didn’t have that feeling, but for Kenton he was alright. Incidentally, I have liked all Ellington’s drummers – all wonderful! They all show a wonderful feeling for Duke’s music. When I was younger I didn’t much like Sonny Greer, but now listening again, I think he was just the man for Ellington. Bellson was good, so was Butch Ballard and Dave Black, all wonderful drummers.

‘Well, I’d say that was a good record ruined by the drummer, Denzil Best. No sympathy at all’

Lover. Jack Teagarden – Accent on Trombone. Urania ULLP 1205
Well, I’d say that was a good record ruined by the drummer, Denzil Best. No sympathy at all. With Milt Hinton on bass the rhythm should be good, but it was all terribly weak. I am afraid there will never be another Jack Teagarden – that in­dividual sound that you could never mistake. A lovely player and a lovely man. What a shame he had to go. But I can’t get over that drummer. I know everyone has their off days, but… I remember Denzil Best when he was with George Shearing’s first band, never a favourite of mine. Both Ruby Braff and Lucky Thompson had nice solos, but the rhythm…

Matilda, Matilda. Jimmy Smith – Rockin’ The Boat. Blue Note 4141
Now there was some better drumming: Donald Bailey. A pleasant record all through. I hate those B.B.C. theatre organs, but I liked that. Jimmy Smith varies his sound and the rhythm is very strong. As a drummer I suppose I listen to drums more than anything else when I first hear a record. When I was on the boats, when I got to New York I always used to go and hear the drummers. You know, Art Blakey, Sonny Igoe – a wonderful drummer – and the fabulous Buddy Rich!

I had been told things about Buddy, but when I saw him, I was floored, couldn’t believe what I saw. There are to me a few things to always be remembered, and that is definitely number one. Buddy Rich to me is a real genius. There are three things that musically really stand out in my life. The first was when I was about 15 and I heard Johnny Claes’ band – I didn’t sleep that night. That was the band with Ronnie Scott and a wonderful alto player I never hear about now, Harry Hayes – I heard them every night, and they played a week in Oldham. The second thing was when I heard the Basie band for the first time at Birdland – the whole place was jumping; and the atmosphere… And the third of course was seeing Buddy Rich. Everything he does is so completely natural and the sound he gets. I know I just could never play like that, nor could anyone else, for I think it mainly a matter of the way you think, and I am sure only Buddy can think that way.