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Billy Taylor – Four Classic Albums

Cross Section : Billy Taylor (piano): Earl May (bass): Percy Brice (drums) with Joe Mangual (bongos), Charlie Smith (congas), Machito (maracas), Uba Nieto (timbales)

The Billy Taylor Trio with Candido : Billy Taylor (piano): Earl May (bass): Percy Brice (drums) with Candido (congas, bongos, drums)

The Billy Taylor Touch : Billy Taylor (piano): John Collins (guitar): Al McKibbon (bass), Earl May (bass): Ed Thigpen (drums): Shadow Wilson (drums)

With Four Flutes : Billy Taylor (piano): Frank Wess, Jerry Sanfino, Herbie Mann, Jerome Richardson, Phil Bodner, Billy Slapin (flutes): Tommy Williams (bass): Albert Heath (drums): Dave Bailey (drums): Chino Pozo (congas)

Recorded NTC, 1951-59

AVID AMSC1200 [68:24 + 80:41]




1-12: ‘Cross Section’
1. Eddie’s Theme
2. Mood For Mendes
3. Lullaby Of Birdland
4. Goodbye
5. Tune For Tex
6. Moonlight In Vermont
7. Biddy’s Beat
8. I’ll Be Around
9. I Love To Mambo
10. Candido Mambo
11. Early Morning Mambo
12. Mambo Azul
13-18: ‘The Billy Taylor Trio with Candido’
13. Mambo Inn
14. Bit Of Bedlam
15. Declivity
16. Love For Sale
17. A Live One
18. Different Bells

1-11: ‘The Billy Taylor Touch’
1. You Make Me Feel So Young
2. Earl May
3. Can You Tell By Looking At Me
4. I Get A Kick Out Of You
5. Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
6. Willow Weep For Me
7. Good Groove
8. What Is There To Say
9. Thou Swell
10. The Very Thought Of You
11. Somebody Loves Me
12-20: ‘With Four Flutes’
12. The Song Is Ended
13. Back Home
14. St. Thomas
15. Oh Lady Be Good
16. No Parking
17. Koolbongo
18. Blue Shutters
19. One For The Woofer
20. How About You


Billy Taylor has been underestimated for years. Here there are four albums from the 1950s to provide a snapshot of his working practices in the decade. He owed much to the influence of Teddy Wilson, whose elegance Taylor absorbed but he was a more cutting and vitally rhythmic player than Wilson, having something of Ray Bryant’s brio about him.

Cross Section has a nice sequence of tunes – from Shearing to a slew of Taylor’s own – in which he displays his balladic qualities, his romantic affiliations and ripe chording and use of apt harmonies. For the last third of the disc he’s joined by Machito who adds Latino percussive energy – though the sterner listener might recoil at the perceived chic element audible here from time to time. He also teamed up with Candido in the second LP, and here the up-tempo grooves ensure a good time feel. His trio – Earl May and Percy Brice – fit well with the percussionist and there is no sense of grafting alien milieus in these tracks: things sound organic and enjoyable.

The Billy Taylor Touch, with two different sets of bass and drums supporting him – Ed Thigpen and Shadow Wilson variously the drummers – presents an 11-track LP strong on precision and authoritative interplay. Taylor’s legato-lyric approach can be admired at its very best in Can You Tell By Looking At Me and his playful side, complete with naughtily vexatious quotations, on Good Groove. For elegant tracery listen no further than the richly textured ballad exploration of Ray Noble’s The Very Thought of You.

The final LP is a bit of a flute curio. The gathering of flautists includes Frank Wess, Herbie Mann, Jerome Richardson, Phil Bodner, Billy Slapin and Jerrry Sanfoino and was taped in 1959. With Chino Pozo’s congas added to the mix the stage is set for some birdsong-and -blues warbling, much of it attractive. It swings well and hearing multiple flute trades is always aurally titillating, though this is not an essential 1950s LP by any means.

Original sleeve notes have been retained and the transfers are first class.

Jonathan Woolf

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