Billy Taylor

Taylor Made at the Kennedy Center

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Billy Taylor, artistic advisor for jazz at the Kennedy Center, major pianist, and one of the most articulate of all jazz performers, is in the spotlight throughout most of this excellent CD, Taylor Made at the Kennedy Center, which is comprised exclusively of his compositions. The performances are taken from three different occasions. The bulk of the music is from December 31, 1999. Taylor and his trio, with bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Winard Harper, stretch out the lengthy "Suite for Jazz Piano and Orchestra" which holds one's interest despite the lack of an orchestra; Taylor contributed one strong melody after another to this 15-1/2-minute work. Harper is featured on the Latin-ish "Titoro," and the group is joined by guitarist Russell Malone ("Theodora"), trumpeter Terence Blanchard (who plays beautifully on the melancholy ballad "A Bientot") and tenor-saxophonist Stanley Turrentine ("Easy Walker"). All of those guests, plus vibraphonist Stefon Harris are featured on the opening boppish blues "Birdwatcher." In addition, Taylor's trio is heard on September 24, 2001 performing "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free." A stroke kept Billy Taylor from attending his own 80th birthday celebration at the Lincoln Center, but his music from that night is represented with Cyrus Chestnut filling in on piano. Dee Dee Bridgewater sings "If You Really Are Concerned," and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and trombonist Steve Turre are featured on "Diz." All in all, this is a well-rounded release of formerly rare music, played with enthusiasm. Recommended.

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