Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mike Taylor - 1966 - Pendulum

Mike Taylor 

01. But Not for Me
02. Exactly Like You
03. A Night in Tunisia
04. Pendulum
05. To Segovia
06. Leeway

Bass – Tony Reeves
Drums – Jon Hiseman
Piano – Mike Taylor
Soprano Saxophone – Dave Tomlin

Michael Ronald Taylor (1 June 1938, Ealing, West London- 19 January 1969) was a British jazz composer, pianist and co-songwriter for the band Cream.

Mike Taylor was brought up by his grandparents in London and Kent, and joined the RAF for his national service. Having rehearsed and written extensively throughout the early 1960s, he recorded two albums for the Lansdowne series produced by Denis Preston: Pendulum (1966) with drummer Jon Hiseman, bassist Tony Reeves and saxophonist Dave Tomlin) and Trio (1967) with Hiseman and bassists Jack Bruce and Ron Rubin. They were issued on UK Columbia.

During his brief recording career, several of Taylor's pieces were played and recorded by his contemporaries. Three Taylor compositions were recorded by Cream, with lyrics by drummer Ginger Baker "Passing the Time", "Pressed Rat and Warthog" and "Those Were the Days", all of which appeared on the band's August 1968 album Wheels of Fire. Neil Ardley's New Jazz Orchestra's September 1968 recording Le Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe features one original Taylor composition "Ballad" and an arrangement by him of a Segovia piece "Study".

Mike Taylor drowned in the River Thames near Leigh-on-Sea, Essex in January 1969, following years of heavy drug use (principally hashish and LSD). He had been homeless for three years, and his death was almost entirely unremarked.

Pianist / composer Mike Taylor was the most enigmatic figure on the British Jazz scene in the 1960s. His genius was almost completely unknown to most and just a handful of close friends / musicians had the opportunity to work with him and hear his music. His eccentric personality, which bordered on the mentally unstable and his tragic death at a ridiculous young age cut his career short, leaving a legacy of just two albums, of which this is the first. Anybody listening to this album will surely realize that this is one of the most daring and earliest modern British Jazz recordings and it parallels (in time and complexity) to the most advanced Avant Garde Jazz experiments happening across the Atlantic. Taylor’s unprecedented and unconventional approach to music was so ahead of its time that it’s truly mind-boggling. The quartet playing on this recording includes Taylor on piano, Dave Tomlin on soprano saxophone, Tony Reeves on bass and Jon Hiseman on drums (the last two were of course to form the band Colosseum a few years later). The sound of the quartet is somewhat similar to John Coltrane’s legendary quartet, but Taylor plays quite differently than McCoy Tyner of course. The music includes three Jazz standards (on what used to be Side A) and three original compositions by Taylor (on Side B). The treatment of the standards is an absolute hair-raising experience, with Taylor de-composing / de-structuring the original harmony and re-assembling the pieces together in a completely new way. His original compositions are awesome as well, exposing a new musical universe. The entire album is a knockout from start to finish and listening to it over 40 years after it was recorded should still produce Goosebumps on every sensitive listener’s skin. BTW people unaware of Jon Hiseman’s early Jazz days should check out his recording with another great British pianist Howard Riley on Howard’s debut album “Discussions”. Taylor was about to record only one more album, called simply “Trio”, with Jon Hiseman and Jack Bruce on bass (Bruce was very much involved with the British Jazz scene before his adventure with Cream – see Jack’s debut album “Things We Like”), who was a friend of Taylor, as were the other members of the Graham Bond Organization. Also it’s really strange that Taylor’s fate was in many ways similar to that of Bond’s, both ending their lives in a suicide / accident, following a long period of mental instability. This album is a central piece of the puzzle forming the birth of modern British Jazz and no serious follower of that scene can afford not to have this album in his collection. Beyond essential!