BILLY TAYLOR Uptown
The BILLY TAYLOR TRIO, recorded ‘live’ at The Prelude
Billy Taylor (p) Henry Grimes (b) Ray Mosca (drs)
New York; February 4, 1960
1. La Petite Mambo (5:53) (Erroll Garner)
2. Jordu (4:20) (Duke Jordan)
3. Just the Thought of You (5:09) (Billy Taylor)
4. Soul Sister (5:43) (Billy Taylor)
1. Moanin’ (5:19) (Bobby Timmons)
2. Warm Blue Stream (5:10) (Sara Casey)
3. Biddy’s Beat (4:23) (Billy Taylor)
4. Cu-Blue (4:06) (Billy Taylor)
5. ‘Swonderful (4:00) (George & Ira Gershwin)
Few current jazz artists possess the ability to communicate with an audience as directly, spontaneously and enjoyably as BILL TAYLOR. Therefore, it turns out to be not only highly appropriate but also extremely satisfying to present Billy’s trio exactly as it was caught-in-action on the job during one night of his long, early-1960 engagement at a smallish and handsome night spot called The Prelude, on the outskirts of Harlem.
There is usually a good deal of controversy regarding the good and bad points of “live” jazz recording. On the one hand there is the major asset of enthusiasm and spirit: if you are lucky enough to have your tape machine on hand when a group is really on, and when musicians and audience are doing a good job of interacting on each other, chances are you’ll come up with a far more exciting result than can be created in the more formal confines of the recording studio. But, on the other hand, on-the-scene recording has special risks all its own: you can catch an off night or a cold audience; there isn’t much opportunity for noting and correcting fluffs and weak spots. And almost always you have to settle for recording conditions a good cut below the usual studio standards.
But once in a while the strong points strikingly over-balance the risks. That was quite clearly the case here, Billy Taylor, as always, heads a very well-intergrated trio. Also, he is a musician who just doesn’t make many mistakes. And, as can be attested by the many jazz fans who have heard him at New York’s Hickory House or The Composer, at Chicago’s London House, or at countless other clubs since he first branched out as leader of his own trio in 1952, there is scarcely a night when Billy doesn’t succeed in putting his listeners into the right groove. Furthermore, which is an unusually tasteful-looking and properly relaxed room, turns out also to be one of the most tasteful-sounding clubs we have ever encountered.
Billy is, in several varied respects, an extraordinarily articulate individual. He has written and lectured quite perceptively about jazz (both instruction and criticism), was the focal point of an NBS-TV series that stands as one of the very few intelligently conceived attempts to ‘educate’ the public to jazz, and currently is conducting an excellent weekly disc jockey how on a New York radio station. This articulateness definitely extends also to his composing and playing, a fact that should be made abundantly clear by this album. In that vein, you could accurately describe his work here as a fine example of just how clear and expressive an off-the-cuff ‘speaker’ he is. For, while the basic outlines of these trio numbers are firmly organized and well rehearsed, this particular night found Taylor in extremely free-flowing and inventive solo form. Actually, with so self-critical, analytical and perfectionist a musician as Billy, there is a decided advantage to catching him in the comparatively off-guard mood of an on-the-job setting.
His mood here, to be specific, is well over on the earthy and wailing side of things. The “uptown” of the albums title refers not only to the 129th Street location of the club, but also to the prevailing “uptown” musical atmosphere. Although Billy is above all a lyrically swinging pianist (Art Tatum was a key formative influence), there is a strong clement of fundamentally blues-imbued spirit present on this LP: in his treatment of Bobby Timmons’ Moanin’, in the tunes of pianists Erroll Garner and Duke Jordan, in Sara Cassey’s ballad Warm Blue Stream, and in such Taylor originals as Cu-Blu and the newly-written blues, Soul Sister.
This is a fairly recently revamped Billy Taylor Trio, with Billy having felt the need for trading the ease of long-standing familiarity (such as his seven-year association with his close friend, bassist Earl May) for the challenge and freshness of working things out from scratch with new sidemen. He would appear to have done a swift and thorough job, for both Henry Grimes (whose experience includes a stint with Sonny Rollins) and Ray Mosca (who has toured with George Shearing) seem firmly and cohesively blended with the leader and with each other.
Billy’s previous album for this label is –
BILLY TAYLOR with Four Flutes; featuring Frank Wess, Herbie Mann, Jerome Richardson (RLP 12-306; also Stereo RLP 1151)
Other outstanding Riverside jazz includes –
Them Dirty Bleus: CANNONBALL ADDERLEY Quintet (RLP 12-322; also Stere0 RLP 1170)
The Fabulous Guitar of WES MONTGOMERY (RLP 12-320; also Stereo RLP 1169)
Portrait in Jazz: BILL EVANS Trio (RLP 12-315; also Stereo RLP 1162)
(The present album is also available in Stereophonic form on RLP 1168)
Produced and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover designed and produced by PAUL BACON – KEN BRAREN – HARRIS LEWINE
Cover and back-liner photographs by LAWRENCE N. SHUSTAK
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER. Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCITONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.