June 18, 2024

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CD review: Chad Taylor Trio – The Reel 2022: Video, CD cover

The multifaceted drummer Chad Taylor, who proves to be as much virtuosic as practical in his chops, returns with his bass-less trio – featuring saxophonist Brian Settles and pianist Neil Podgursky – for a sophomore album whose program is a jewel. As a sideman, the drummer has been contributing to some of the most compelling projects by the Chicago Underground Quartet, saxophonists Avram Fefer and James Brandon Lewis, and bassist Eric Revis, just to name a few.

He brings two of his own compositions into The Reel, one being the title track, a piece in five with a rubato piano-driven passage and a folk inflection that makes us think of Keith Jarrett’s excursions; and the other “Julian’s Groove”, which makes a fine turn into an Afro-Cuban rhythm so blithe as to be ravishing.

The amazing teamwork between the trio members is here for anyone to declare true, and you’ll find two incredible renditions of tunes by the immensely influential pianist Andrew Hill that are illustrative of that. “Subterfuge”, for example, brings a subtle Latin touch to Hill’s hypnotic modal jazz; it’s a narratively strong number where Podgursky combines lush voicings and single-note phrases with dexterity. Boasting an alluring timbre, Settles is assertive in his statement, letting the ideas flow with freedom, whereas Taylor expands his language during four-bar exchanges with his associates. The other piece, “Reconciliation” – a gem first included in the 1964 Blue Note album Judgment! – relies on a boppish language with some delightful angularity, benefiting from the ever-sensitive drumming of the bandleader, whose classy brushwork shows the way for qualified solos from Settles and Podgursky.

Whereas the saxophonist contributes only “Moon Tone Shift”, pivoting to a more sober mood with parallel lyricism on top of Taylor’s elemental vitality, the pianist penned four of the nine tracks on the album. The highlights are “Delta”, with its disarmingly expressive melody, as well as the beautifully accented “Omniverse”, which closes out the session as an artier model centered on post-bop sophistication. Here, the racing melodies go up and down the hill with intervallic wisdom and impeccable drumming on the side.

What’s more striking is that there are no weak moments on The Reel, an album that holds one’s interest on account of emotional honesty and a refreshing musical imagination made with a mix of complete unpretentiousness and necessary complexity. The members of this trio, not being radically different in their tastes and approaches, are definitely on the same page.

1. Subterfuge 06:17
2. Delta 05:38
3. Moon Tone Shift 05:56
4. Julian’s Groove 04:34
5. Nebula 04:52
6. Reconciliation 05:18
7. Concentric 06:02
8. The Reel 05:32
9. Omniverse 05:12

Chad Taylor – drums
Brian Settles – saxophones
Neil Podgurski – piano

The Reel | Chad Taylor Trio

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