Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 7, No. 4, 2008

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Phil Nixon
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan

Montreal Guitarmania 2008 (Martin Taylor, D. Ross, J. Officer etc
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2006







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: MARTIN TAYLOR
©Marcel Dubois

No surprise that guitarist Martin Taylor was voted Best Guitarist by the British Jazz Awards for the 11th time. Pat Metheny, no slouch himself on the instrument, describes Taylor as “one of the most awesome solo guitar players in the history of the instrument.”

Martin Taylor, a self taught guitarist who first came to public notice substituting in Stephane Grappelli’s trio, has been quietly wowing peers, pundits and audiences for the better part of four decades. And what he does so well now takes him everywhere in the world, including Montreal for the occasion of Guitarmania, the precious 3-day mini-guitar festival that takes place inside the huge Montreal International Jazz Festival.

As a measure of Taylor’s legendary range and accomplishment, he has collaborated with the likes of Yehudi Menuhin, Didier Lockwood, George Harrison and Dionne Warwick, to mention a few. And where ego often conspires against a musician’s development and decision making, Taylor, like Joe Pass, is equally comfortable sharing the spotlight with other guitarists, such as the amazing Tommy Emmanuel, or providing musical accompaniment for up and coming artists. For the past couple of years Taylor has been playing behind and recording with singer Alison Burns whose reputation continues to lag behind her natural abilities.

For his precious solo concert in Montreal, Taylor’s insights and highly personal take on especially the standards snuck up on the audience like an unexpected gratification, in part, because his second to none technical ability is initially so distracting. The obvious comparison and the touchstone against which all jazz solo guitarists are judged is Joe Pass. But Taylor’s bass lines, that incorporate back thumbing, are more complex, his melodies more developed, on top of which he’s throws in for balance and forward momentum a solid foundation of two and three note chords that either support the melody or meld the major chord changes.

The first five minutes of any Martin Taylor performance are guaranteed to produce awe and incredulity, the kind evoked by the master flamenco guitarists. But Taylor, before deciding on a particular standard, obliges himself to rethink it in order to discover what remains to be said about it, which is why his work is always refreshing and why we’re not surprised to learn that he is one of the most imitated guitarists in the world. Despite a dazzling and almost inimitable technique, Taylor simply refuses to puff up or inflate a standard for the sake of originality that will strike the refined ear like a false note. He might spend months working on an interpretation such that his playing becomes so reassuring and confident, and his melody lines often so hummable, that like Bach’s, his music might register on the lazy ear as mechanical or lacking in spontaneity. To that wild accusation, I say there is more than enough of what is spontaneous and bad out there for my entire hearing apparatus to turn into a red flag, that spontaneity is merely one component of many in the production of music and that it should never be confused with those self-conscious efforts to be original.

When as an audience, we’re lucky enough to be in the presence of music that rings true and novel, it is because during its conception, the spontaneous invention that went into its making has already been fused into the song’s primary structure. When they say that he or she owns a particular standard, as Sinatra owns “I’ve Got You Under my Skin” or Chet Baker owns “My Funny Valentine,” it’s because their inventiveness has transformed the original material into something of themselves,otherwise known as style, where one’s art and world view are one and the same. Listen to Martin Taylor long enough and you’ll find yourself returning again and again to an imagination with which very few guitarists in the world can compete, where the technique, no matter how incomparable, is merely the means to say what he has to say.

All this was brought to bear during Taylor’s solo Montreal Jazz Festival concert when, as he explained it, after a lengthy period in which he didn’t touch the guitar, he was finally able to write and play a composition for his son who died in his early 20s -- a piece whose technique was completely subsumed by the feelings this master guitarist made issue from his instrument.

To find out what audiences and critics have embraced in both the art and the person of Martin Taylor, check the video below.


Photo © Marcel Dubois




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