Monday, June 11, 2018

Various Artists - 1973 - Mike Taylor Remembered

Various Artists 
Mike Taylor Remembered

01. Half Blue
02. Pendulum
03. I See You
04. Son of Red Blues / Brown Thursday
05. Song of Love
06. Folk Dance No. 2
07. Summer Sounds, Summer Sights
08. Land of Rhyme in Time
09. Timewind Jumping Off the Sun
10. Black and White Raga

Tony Fisher, Greg Bowen, Henry Lowther, Ian Carr - trumpets, flugelhorn
Chris Pyne, David Horler - trombones
Ray Premru - trombone
Barbara Thompson - flute, alto flute, saxophone
Ray Warleigh - flute, saxophone
Stan Sulzmann - flute, saxophone
Bob Efford - oboe, tenor sax, bassoon
Dave Gelly - clarinet, saxophone
Bunny Gould - clarinet, bassoon
Peter Lemer - piano, , synthesizer
Alan Branscombe - vibraphone
Chris Laurence, Ron Mathewson - bass
Jon Hiseman - drums, percussion
Neil Ardley - the director
Norma Winstone - the vocals

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.

The short and tragic life of pianist / composer Mike Taylor, an eccentric genius fallen victim to mental illness / drug abuse, which proved self-destructive and led to his death at the age of 29, is surely worthy a script adaptation for a Martin Scorsese movie. Sometimes referred to as “the Syd Barrett of British Jazz”, Taylor had close ties with a relatively small group of musicians, like Graham Bond and the members of his Graham Bond Organization, which included Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker – soon to be founders of Cream. Many people will be surprised to learn that three songs co-written by Ginger and Mike appear on Cream’s “Wheels Of Fire” album (“Pressed Rat And Warthog”, “Those Were The Days” and “Passing The Time”). Another one of his superb songs – “Jumping Off The Sun” – was recorded by Colosseum and appears on several of their albums. Although known intimately by very few people at the time, the legend lives on and periodically the flame of interest is rekindled among the modern British Jazz fans, like in the case of reissue of his only two existing recordings: “Pendulum” and “Trio”. Even fewer people are aware of the spectacular tribute album recorded by Taylor’s musician friends three years after his death. Recorded under the musical direction of another British Jazz legendary figure, composer / arranger / bandleader Neil Ardley, who discovered Taylor’s genius immediately and scored some of his compositions for the New Jazz Orchestra when Taylor was still alive. Unfortunately the concert, which was to feature NJO and Mike’s trio never materialized, since Taylor (already very ill at the time) simply missed the gig. Nevertheless Ardley continued to use Taylor’s music as part of the regular NJO repertoire and suggested to Denis Preston, owner of the legendary Lansdowne Studios in London, where most of the pivotal modern British Jazz was recorded, to produce a tribute album to Mike Taylor’s musical genius. Preston, who recorded the two Taylor albums, needed no persuasion and funded the complex and costly project with no hesitation, considering it a most appropriate gesture. Ardley assembled a group of 20 musicians to record this project, sharing the scoring of the music for a large ensemble with others, who were close to Taylor and new him well, like Howard Riley, Barbara Thompson and Dave Gelly. One of the tracks is based on a previously unreleased Taylor quartet recording, with the ensemble overdubbed on top of the original recording, which makes Taylor’s participation in this project almost “in person” as well as “in spirit”. The list of the participating musicians reads like the who’s who of modern British Jazz and includes among others: Ian Carr and Henry Lowther on trumpet, Chris Pyne and David Horler on trombone, Ray Warleigh and Stan Sulzmann on saxophone, Peter Lemer and Alan Branscombe on piano, Chris Lawrence and Ron Mathewson on bass, Jon Hiseman on drums and of course the divine Norma Winstone on vocals. I can’t think of a more appropriate tribute than this one, full of love, dedication and music genius by all the people involved. Considering the fact that this album combines the genius of Taylor’s Jazz composition with the genius of Ardley’s Jazz scoring / arranging, we get (in mathematical terms) a genius squared result – a rare event indeed. Recommending this album would be somewhat similar to recommending someone to read some Joyce or see a van Gogh – completely superfluous. I’m sure you get the drift by now!



  2. Drago, you are ill, for real. I am always surprised what do you bring to your blog. I like your jazz oriented music now. One love.