James Taylor Quartet

In the Hand of the Inevitable

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Released in 1995, In the Hand of the Inevitable is the most curious of all of the James Taylor Quartet's recordings. After helping to usher in the acid jazz movement on recordings like 1987's Money Spyder, with its spy/noir-ish soundtrack feel equally influenced by Lalo Schifrin and the Ventures, and the masterpiece that is the band's 1989 effort, Get Organized (their first to employ vocals -- in a truly soulful jazz scat style), they moved to the center, becoming more a house music soundtrack act with diva-like vocals (sometimes male-centric as well with Noel McCoy watering down the earlier gains they'd made musically). In the Hand of the Inevitable, issued stateside by Hollywood's Acid Jazz imprint, is a transition album. In its native U.K., this set is regarded as a classic meld of the band's earlier style and the more soul and house approach of the immediately preceding albums, Supernatural Feeling (1993) and Do Your Own Thing (1991). Here, it's regarded as a bit more ho-hum, generic safe-stepping period album. It's neither. In the Hand of the Inevitable is another singular moment for the JTQ, where the integration of modern British soul and the big-beat intensity of being a jazz group began to form a new identity for the band, which was equally at home in a sweaty club or a concert hall. In fact, if this set owes to anything, it's a deep nod to Brian Auger's Oblivion Express. Check the funky, horn-driven riffing on "3 Mile Island," the upscale, jazzed-up soul in "Keep on Moving," and the burning organ acid boil on the closing title track for evidence of Auger's lineage firmly imprinted on these cuts' DNA. On the other hand, the mod, wild-style rave-up organ groove -- patented in the sound lab by one Georgie Fame -- is readily apparent in the band's killer reading of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." But then there is the house-soul model too, evidenced by the beautiful vocal interplay of "Love Will Keep Us Together" (no, not the Captain & Tennille hit) as well as Gary Crockett's euphoric, jazzed-up anthem "Sounds of Freedom." If In the Hand of the Inevitable sounds like anything, it sounds like a band whose members have so many possibilities at hand that they can't focus on any one for too long, making for a thoroughly exhilarating listen.

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