Exits and Entrances

COMPOSERS: John Taylor
LABELS: Oh No!
ALBUM TITLE: John Taylor with the Creative Jazz Orchestra
PERFORMER: John Taylor (p), Julian Arguelles (ss), Iain Dixon (cls), Andy Schofield (ts, ss), Liam Kirkman (tb), Oren Marshall (tba), David Chevallier (g), Steve Arguelles (d)
CATALOGUE NO: CJO 1001

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John Taylor is one of the great jazz piano masters and an excellent composer/arranger who has a vast and inclusive conception of music. Exits and Entrances is a suite of seven pieces for an octet, with the addition of two of Taylor’s reworked earlier compositions. It was commissioned for the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 1997 and, earlier this year, it toured in Britain for the Contemporary Music Network.

This is, at core, a dynamic jazz work full of incident, drama and intriguing orchestral colours, but it occasionally sounds like a classical avant-garde chamber group. The musicians are all virtuoso improvisers and their rapport with Taylor’s conception is so complete that it’s sometimes difficult to know when composition ends and improvisation begins. The bravura opening piece, ‘Quatorze’, features fine dynamics, subtle breathing spaces, rich counterpoint and harmony, breathtaking pianism and a glorious soprano solo by Julian Arguelles.

The following six pieces are based loosely on Jaques’s Seven Ages of Man speech from As You Like It. ‘Boys’ opens with a haunting duet by Arguelles and Dixon, then the atmosphere becomes more ribald when tuba and trombone emit flatulent rasps with dissonant piano accompaniment and the piece ends nightmarishly with soprano and bass clarinet emiting wild animal squeals and rasps. ‘Fable’ is a trio performance featuring Chevallier’s acoustic guitar, Taylor and Arguelles, in an ineffably tender performance.

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‘Pantaloon’ is a rousing full ensemble outing with a low brass rhythm base, and piano rippling and rocking wildly. The invention never flags in this great album.