John Taylor at the Cheltenham Festival
We seem to have been marking special days a lot recently, what with the first International Jazz Day and last week's portraits programme. This week we're celebrating another landmark – the 70th birthday of pianist John Taylor. He's gathered family and friends around him in a one-off octet to give us a present (albeit one which Radio 3 commissioned!) – a brand new suite, performed for the first time at the Cheltenham Festival.
Taylor has chosen a short story by American writer Kurt Vonnegut as the loose basis for the piece, and the chapters move through a range of moods, from the laidback swagger of the opening section, Doozy, to the uneasy mystery of Deer on the Moon. Taylor's writing allows plenty of space for the likes of saxophonist Julian Argüelles and tuba player Oren Marshall to show their improv chops, with some beautiful lyricism from trumpeter Chris Batchelor and trombonist Henning Berg at times too, supported by a rhythm section that includes John's sons Alex (guitar and vocals) and Leo (drums). Taylor senior often feels more like bandleader than star turn, gently prompting from the piano rather than spending too much time under the spotlight, although when he does it's signature stuff.
There's another anniversary on the programme tonight, and it's a big one – this week it's 100 years since Gil Evans was born and we've picked out a gem of an excerpt from the Radio 3 archive, remembering Gil's under-represented 'electric' period in the 1970s, and hearing archive footage of Gil himself. There’s also a great story about one star performer Gil declined to work with in a novel way!
I'll also be playing a short taste of another gig I thoroughly enjoyed at Cheltenham last week – Bill Frisell and his Beautiful Dreamers trio, which you can hear at greater length on next week's programme.
Join me on Monday 14 May from 11pm, or listen online for seven days after broadcast.