The Best of Martin Taylor

Martin Taylor

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The Best of Martin Taylor Review

by Jeff Tamarkin

It would seem futile to argue with the definitiveness of a retrospective compiled by the artist himself, but the truth is that many artists are far from being the best judges of their own work. Martin Taylor did choose the 26 tracks that span this double-disc, which draws from his recordings for such labels as Columbia, Linn, The Guitar Label, and others. But although the compiler/artist would undoubtedly take issue, some of these picks are less than stellar, with an outsized reliance on the safer, less far-reaching aspects of Taylor's work. Often called the best jazz guitarist of his generation, Taylor's discography is extensive and covers a vast landscape of styles and approaches. He's never less than superb technically, his tone is always pure, and when he takes his foot off the brake -- as he does here on stratospheric tracks such as "The Kraken" and the solo guitar piece "Kwame" -- his brilliance is unquestionable. However, all too often on this set, for practically the entire first disc, in fact, Taylor drags along, spilling out new-agey licks that are beneath his ability and often approach the somnambulant. The opener, a take on the Earth, Wind & Fire classic "That's the Way of the World," sets a sleepy tone that doesn't pick up for more than half-an-hour. Some of the other covers, among them an abominable working of "The Odd Couple" TV theme and a technically dazzling but surprisingly passionless "I Got Rhythm" (which he performed as a member of St├ęphane Grappelli's band), belong on an album of filler material, not a best-of. On the other hand, when Taylor switches into Django Reinhardt mode, as he does on Reinhardt's "Nuages" and Taylor's own "No Pedestrians," it's apparent why he receives the plaudits he does.

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