While Taylor’s influences can be identified by the discerning listener, comparisons are no longer relevant; Taylor is his own man, and has developed a piano style which comfortably integrates the impressionism, swing and classical references of Evans, Jarrett and Corea, into a unique voice that is instantly recognizable.
The material covers a lot of territory, revisiting titles from his tenure with the mid-90s Peter Erskine Trio, including "Pure and Simple", "Clapperclowe", and "Evans Above"; "Ambleside", from his 1995 duet recording with John Surman; and "Field Day", from this year’s Rosslyn. There are a couple of new compositions, as well as a beautiful cover of Kenny Wheeler’s "Everybody’s Song But My Own" and Steve Swallow’s "Vaguely Asian".
Throughout the program, one cannot help but be captivated by Taylor’s style, which ranges from the brooding "Glebe Ascending" to the poetic "Between Moons" to the lyrical "Namasti". Strings are plucked and strummed; the piano is tapped to add a percussive effect on "Vaguely Asian".
Taylor plays freely with time; sometimes pulsing as on "Glebe Ascending", which sounds as if it could have been written for Taylor’s Azimuth trio; other times completely free, as in the closing track, "Handmade".
A characteristic that sets Taylor apart from many of his peers is his harmonic richness; yet for all its denseness, the sound is remarkably light and airy; Taylor covers much emotional ground. The whole program is, for all its wealth of ideas and complexity, completely accessible and totally engaging.
Now in his 60s, Taylor seems to be stepping up the volume of his recorded output. He finally seems to be in a position to record more frequently as a leader, and this is good news; while he has always shone in every context he has played in, the freedom of driving his own projects suits him well. From his more experimental work with The Creative Jazz Orchestra to defining a new sound for the piano trio with Marc Johnson and Joey Baron, to solo work with Insight, John Taylor is showing what artists like Kenny Wheeler have known all along: that he has a unique ability to meld European impressionism with a knowledge of the American tradition; freedom with structure; and composition with improvisation, creating a wholly unique piano voice. Hopefully albums like Insight will ensure that this voice finally gets heard by a wider audience.
Insight is released by Sketch Records, and distributed by Harmonia Mundi.