The music of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Taylor doesn’t really suggest strong roots in the Great American Songbook. In projects such as Dumpter Hunter and Beat Music, his voice can be raw and intense, his lyrics evocative and elliptical. However, when Taylor sat down with Jazz Speaks for an interview last September, he spoke of the importance and lasting impact of his training in the standards of jazz.
That night, I sat on the futon in [the Rosenthal’s] living room and Tom Rosenthal got the vinyl out: Sinatra Live at the Sands, with Count Basie and Orchestra. Then Kind of Blue. Well, you hear that for the first time and… Wow, I didn’t know what to say.
Tom takes the record off and says “Listen, I’m going to call up a pianist friend of mine. You have a 4-track, right? Buy yourself a couple of tapes, let’s pick an Eddie Jefferson song where he sings the Charlie Parker solos with lyrics put to them, and make an audition tape.” So I did “Disappointed.” I spent every day learning how to nail it. Then I did “When Somebody Loves You” in Sinatra style, as well as “Fly Me To The Moon,” all with piano accompaniment in the Rosenthal’s living room.
Later, when I was at William Patterson University, it was the first year that the late great James Williams, of The Jazz Messengers, was the co-director there. James Williams, of all the faculty, was hands-on with singers in the best possible way. By all rights the guy really had some chops, he could have been hanging with all the other cats. But he would stay late and work with the vocalists. Sarah Versprille (of Pure Bathing Culture) and I were the vocalists at William Paterson—she had a deep knowledge of the American songbook, where I knew whatever Tom Rosenthal had shown me.
This Friday, April 1st, Taylor returns to The Jazz Gallery to sing two sets of standards with a top-notch band. While the repertoire may be recognizable, Taylor and company will be sure to take the tunes in unexpected and exciting directions. Come out and see a group of highly talented individuals leave their distinctive marks on jazz classics.
Jeff Taylor performs at The Jazz Gallery on Friday, April 1st, 2016. The group features Mr. Taylor on voice, Jason Rigby on saxophone, Broc Hempel on piano, Chris Morrissey on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $22 general admission ($12 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.