Taylor Eigsti

Taylor's Dream

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Menlo Park's Taylor Eigsti is the latest in a line of young hotshot pianists who know the jazz book well. They can quote line and verse from Horace Silver, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Billy Taylor, and Dave Brubeck and play the music by rote, adding small touches of personality along the way. Eigsti is one of these kids, with one important distinction: His treatment of material from the fake book is not littered with small individual flourishes -- he reads these works through his individuality and his truly amazing melodic sensibilities. Eigsti, along with his band featuring John Shifflet on bass and Jason Lewis on drums, takes material from all these sources, adds a Jobim tune, Cedar Walton's challenging "Bolivia," and a couple of originals, and burns the joint down -- lyrically of course. There is no false academic flash in Eigsti's playing -- listen to him tear up the changes in Silver's "Tokyo Blues" -- it's all heart and an unbelievably adept sense of timing. It's true that he plays a hell of a lot of notes, almost as many as Oscar Peterson, but not on every tune and not in every solo. This is youth feeling its oats. On "Bolivia," he plays the mode against the blues mood and makes the drummer double time him, turning the Latin rhythm into a sweat fest. Other standouts include his read of "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," in which he actually adds something emotionally to the piece; his intervals come off like lightning, and his solo against Shifflet's bass is a complex harmonic journey of skeletal chords and triplets played in slow motion. Elsewhere, Jobim's "Meditation" is a study in shade and subtle colors. Timbral shifts occur seamlessly and often; the melody is played off against itself as if Eigsti was searching for Jobim's thoughts and feelings when he wrote the tune. But it's Eigsti's strength as a composer that really sets him apart from the crowd. Like Brad Mehldau, his sense of harmony is rich, warm, and chock-full of shapes and tones, and he exercises it without restraint on "Not Knowing," a blues-based ballad that is reminiscent of Bill Evans both in composition and playing style. The large chords are graced by a whispering right hand that slides down the keyboard to the next set of changes. One can only hope that a stateside label decides to sign this kid and put out his records over here. This is an auspicious a debut album as you are likely to find anywhere.

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