Steve Howe and Martin Taylor recording an album together? It's not as far fetched as one might expect. Howe, a member of the progressive rock band Yes, also explored other genres including flamenco and ragtime. Taylor, on the other hand is strictly a jazz guitarist in the Herb Ellis/ Django Reinhardt tradition. He has performed with the great violinist Stephane Grappelli, as well as recording several albums under his own name. The man responsible for bringing these two together was the late guitar collector, Scott Chinery. When Taylor first saw Chinery's vast collection, he was speechless. Sixteen of the seventeen tracks on Masterpiece Guitars were recorded in 1996. Only Blue Bossa was recorded in May of that year featuring nineteen guitars. Masterpiece Guitars was a daunting project involving many hours of sacrifice and diligence. The reward is that we have a recording that breathes, invigorates and brings two great musicians together having the time of their lives.
Written by Taylor, No Pedestrians
is a fast moving and relentless swing number. Taylor explodes on the strings. Always in control, he takes full advantage with grace and style. The Stromberg and D'Angelico guitars he uses during the solos never sounded better. With a crisp and rounded tone, Taylor's timbre is precise and clean.
Howe and Taylor perform Chaplin's Smile
in a somewhat relaxed and easy going style. Complimenting each other nicely, Howe's Martin has that full bodied sound that lends itself nicely to this standard.
For a brief moment, La Questa
sounds like a tune from the Yes catalog. This beautiful Spanish tinged piece from Taylor is a perfect example of how well Taylor and Howe work together. It's no secret that the two of them are thoroughly enjoying the melody and the accompanying changes. All The Things You Are
is all Taylor. His ability to swing effortlessly as well as take chances is evident throughout. You can almost sense the spirit of Grappelli. Starting off in a soft ballad groove, Taylor explores the neck, hinting at the melody. It doesn't take long for him to kick into high gear with some great finger picking. Taylor plays various Gibsons, as well as a Precision Bass.
Howe's Thought Waves
feature him on both Gibson and Martin guitars. This is typical Howe. Beautiful long chords and gentle harmonic bouquets adorn this welcome number.
Kenny Dorham's classic, Blue Bossa
might be considered the piece de resistance of the seventeen tracks on this collection. Taylor uses an astounding nineteen guitars of various vintage. From a D'Aquisto Centura to a Walker and everything in between, Taylor takes full advantage extracting beautiful sounds from each one of them. His delicate treatment and respect for the melody shine throughout.Tailpiece
is a tune showcasing the dexterity of Howe's talents. Playing on various strings including, banjo bass, and beautiful sounding Bigsby Double Neck and Steel guitars, Howe plays the melody with fun and enthusiasm.
For guitar enthusiasts and music lovers alike, Masterpiece Guitars is a labor of love that finally saw the light of day. Howe's production of this album is excellent. Clean sounding, with careful attention to detail permeate throughout. The level of playing from Howe and Taylor is a joy to listen to. Even more so, listening to the guitars that were used in this recording make for a special event indeed.