In Two Minds
The title of this recording is indicative of the prevailing moods – contemplative and upbeat – blossoming throughout the nine tracks, neatly divided into the Ambleside Suite, nineteen minutes long, and the rest, an iridescent stream of English pianist John Taylor’s compositions (bar two): beautiful jazz numbers underpinned by classical trimmings.
There are echoes of the lightness of touch, the sensibility (almost European in deftness, as if poured into a Latin prism) in later pieces, such as Middle Age Music, and Taylor is such an original pianist that he successfully puts his own delicate spin on the non-Taylor compositions, Kenny Wheeler’s Phrase the Second and Duke Ellington’s Reflections in D.
The title, In Two Minds, has been described as crytic, but I think it appropriate because it alludes to Taylor’s instinct, as a writer and performer, to appreciate the duality behind something as intrinsically organic as composition. There is the surface discipline of classical music, and the liberalism of jazz, but Taylor blossoms more freely when the two merge, so that the hotwired dynamic of ¾ pm and Calmo can hang fire with the seductive necromancy of Dry Stone.
In Two Minds, because the tracks segue effortlessly into each other, is as linear as a concert, the perfect experience for a Saturday afternoon with the family out of town, or a long drive into the back of beyond. It doesn’t take long, from the opening notes of the seductive Coniston, to get lost in the two souls of the CD.
Take in Ambleside Suite in its entirety and you can decipher for yourself, in the words of Brian Morton in the programme notes, how Taylor cannot be defined by any limpid legato playing – he is just too curious for that – but is excitingly polyphonic with fiery conviction. An experience to be repeated, again and again.