Mike Taylor was a British pianist-composer who died as a young man in 1969; in June 1973 Mike Taylor Remembered was recorded in London as a tribute album by a collection of some of England's leading jazz musicians at the time. Never released in CD form, the music has been digitally remastered and released by Dusk Fire Records along with extensive liner notes documenting Taylor's musical life.
The music is exceedingly hard to classify. The opener, "Half Blue / Pendulum" is a Kenton-esque orchestral jazz piece full of big block chords and thematic motifs that are re-stated throughout with different instrumental combinations. The listener who thinks he now has an idea of what this music will be like is disabused by the very next piece ("I See You"), a piano-vocal duet waltz with nary a hint of jazz phrasing or harmony; it is more of a folk song or mood piece that would work quite nicely in a Cirque du Soleil production. Next we have a pair of straight-up hard bop tunes linked together, "Son of Red Blues / Brown Thursday," with the former using a dubbed solo by Mike Taylor himself. These tunes, along with "Black and White Raga," show the influence on Taylor of the hard-bop champions of his day such as Horace Silver and Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers; any hard-bop fan will enjoy these.
Other music on the CD is a mix of folk-jazz-rock, emphasizing the vocal prowess of Norma Winstone who, according to the liner notes, "was one of the few singers able to sing [Taylor's] extraordinary songs." "Summer Sounds, Summer Nights" mixes big band riffs with vocal-and-synthesizer duet lines and unison passages; "The Land of Thyme In Time" is a protest song with a kind of whimsical military band sound; "Jumping off the Sun" sounds like a song from a musical--picture a young woman in a summer dress twirling and dancing through a park--except filtered through the lens of some kind of a hallucinatory influence. As the lyrics themselves say at one point, "These words have no meaning, unless they are sung jumping off the sun...."
This is an eclectic record of one man's compositional experimentation with different musical forms, brought to life by a group of dedicated musician friends who wanted to make sure his music lived.