One of the highlights of the 2001 IAJE Conference in New York City was a live performance just prior to the presentation of the NEA Jazz Masters Awards by veteran jazz educator, pianist, and composer Billy Taylor, accompanied by bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Winard Harper. Just shy of 80 years old at the time, the pianist delivers a masterful program. Taylor's "Impromptu," which he first recorded nearly 40 years earlier, is a dazzling piece divided into two parts, opening with a furious Latin-flavored theme, then segueing into a slower tempo to feature delicious solos by both Jackson and Harper before returning to the initial high-octane pace. One would almost think it's impossible to come up with a novel approach to the venerable standard "Body and Soul," but Taylor succeeds with a dramatic solo introduction that sounds very fresh. "Conversion" was inspired by Jackson's working with the changes to "Out of Nowhere," so Taylor wrote the piece to feature his talented bassist, while "Titoro" is a driving Latin feature for Harper. The final track is an excerpt from Taylor's "Suite for Jazz Piano and Orchestra," which involved transcribing a part written for the strings to be played by the trio. Since there was no announcement that this set was being recorded, IAJE Conference attendees will be especially delighted to acquire this souvenir of a memorable evening.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden