Thursday, January 5, 2017

A masterful night of straight-ahead and Gypsy jazz

Martin Taylor
Jazz guitar master Martin Taylor was the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra’s featured guest at the sextet’s January 4 concert at Daniels Pavilion. It was a spectacular night on all counts. 
 The award-winning Englishman, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, dazzled the Artis Naples audience with his style and musicality in a 75-minute set that showcased his sheer talent, sense of bandsmanship and touched on his best-known career association. He spent toured the world and recording more than 20 albums with French violinist Stephane Grappelli from 1979 to 1990.

“I spent 11 years sitting in Django's seat, and it was a hot seat,” Taylor said, referring to Grappelli’s classic collaboration with guitarist Django Reinhardt. The pair founded the Hot Club of France quintet in 1934 and worked together until 1948.

Jazz standards (“Stella By Starlight,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy”), a few tunes from the Great American Songbook (“Skylark” and “Like Someone in Love”) plus an unusual jazz vehicle by Taylor and the full band were sandwiched around the highlight segment.
Taylor used that middle section to spotlight his guitar mastery and musicality with three unaccompanied tunes. They included Jerome Kern’s “I’m Old Fashioned,” Marguerite Monnot and Edith Piaf’s beautiful French ballad “Hymne á L’Amour,” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

Del Gatto, Miller

Taylor is a marvel to hear and watch. The self-taught guitarist developed his own” jazz fingerstyle” mode. He simultaneously plays the melody, bass lines and chordal harmonies. Even when you see it, it is hard to believe it is all coming from the same two hands.

The NPJO’s members are tenor saxophonist and artistic director Lew Del Gatto , trumpeter Dan Miller, violinist Glenn Basham, pianist Jerry Stawski, bassist Kevin G. Mauldin and drummer Mike Harvey.

The presence of Basham, who is concertmaster of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, was highlighted on two other pieces: Gypsy-jazz-tinged originals recalling the guitarist’s work with Grappelli and Taylor's own fascination with Reinhardt’s music.
Taylor, Mauldin, Basham
Taylor said he wrote one of them, “Chez Fernand,” while sitting in one of Reinhardt’s favorite cafes in Samois-sur-Seine, the village where he lived in France. The other was a hornless quintet version of “Last Train to Hauteville,” in which Taylor and Basham traded spirited solos and had their two stringed instruments providing the sound and propulsive rhythm of a passing train.

The band opened the concert with a tune rarely heard in jazz circles. It was the vintage “Theme From The Odd Couple” 1970s TV series. “You may not have recognized it,” Martin quipped. “But we’re jazz musicians. That’s what we do.”

This night, they did it all very well.

Stawski, Taylor, Mauldin, Del Gatto, Miller, Harvey, Basham

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