Art Taylor-A.T.’s Delight.

Label: Blue Note Records.

One of the most influential drummers in the history of jazz is Art Taylor, who was born in New York, on the ‘6th’ of April 1929, and as a teenager, played in a local Harlem-based band that featured pianist Kenny Drew and saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean. Each of these young musicians would enjoy a successful career in jazz, and record for Blue Note Records. 

Art Taylor only released one album for Blue Note Records, A.T.’s Delight in 1960. It was was recently reissued and is a reminder of the man who “helped define the sound of modern jazz drumming,” Art Taylor.

In 1948,  nineteen year old Art Taylor joined Howard McGhee’s band. This was akin to a musical apprenticeship as Art Taylor played alongside one of the first bebop trumpeters.

As the fifties dawned, Art Taylor joined Coleman Hawkins band. Just like Howard McGhee, the Hawk was an inventive and innovative musician who forged his own sound. Although Art Taylor was only the Hawk’s drummer until 1951, it was another learning experience.

Having left the Hawk’s employ, Art Taylor joined bebop clarinetist Buddy DeFranco’s band in 1952. He was regarded as the finest jazz clarinet player and once again, Art Taylor was playing alongside top musicians. However, a year later, he was on the move again.

Art Taylor joined jazz pianist Bud Powell’s band for the first time in 1953. By then, Bud Powell was a hugely influential musician who nowadays, is credited with being a leading figure in the development of modern jazz. Once again, Art Taylor who was still only twenty-four was learning from the best and made his recording debut in 1953. He would feature on twelve albums Bud Powell released between 1953 and 1958, including five for Blue Note Records. However, in 1954 Art Taylor moved on.

In 1954, Art Taylor playing in George Wallington and Art Farmer bands, before returning to Bud Powell’s employ in 1955. Still, Art Taylor was a member of George Wallington’s band until 1955.

That year, 1955, Art Taylor played on Elmo Hope and Frank Foster’s album Hope Meets Foster. This was the start of a prolific period when the recording studio became a second home for Art Taylor.

The following year, 1956, was an important year for Art Taylor. As sideman, he played on the first of eleven Red Garland albums released between 1956 and 1961, and the first of twelve Gene Ammons solo albums released during the same period. He also joined Jackie McLean for the first time, and played on nine albums released between 1956 and 1960. Prolific seemed to be Art Taylor’s middle name.

During 1956, Art Taylor could be heard on a number other albums. This included two albums released by Thelonious Monk;  Matthew Gee’s Jazz By Gee; Kenny Burrell’s All Night Long; Horace Silver’s Silver’s Blue;  Lee Morgan’s Introducing Lee Morgan and Donald Byrd and Art Farmer’s collaboration 2 Trumpets. Although Art Taylor was still only twenty-seven, he was quickly becoming the go-to drummer for many jazz mucicians given his talent, versatility and inventiveness. 

Art Taylor had also joined Gigi Gryce in 1956, and featured on five albums released between 1956 and 1958. The same year 1956, he formed his own band Taylor’s Wailers and also joined Donald Byrd’s band. Art Taylor would spend six years touring and also recording with Donald Byrd between 1957 and 1963. By then, Art Taylor was a respected figure and always in demand as a sideman.

1957, was a significant year for Art Taylor, who was now working with some of the giants of jazz. He was touring with Thelonious Monk, and in 1957, featured on Miles Davis album Miles Ahead. Art Taylor was part of John Coltrane’s band and featured on thirteen albums released between 1956 and 1964. This meant that Art Taylor featured on 1958s Soultrane, 1959s Giant Steps and 1964s Bahia.  However, Art Taylor played on many more albums during the late-sixties.

When jazz fans looked at the credits on a number of albums released during 1957, often the drummer was Art Taylor. He played on Kenny Burrell’s All Day Long and 2 Guitars; Paul Chambers’ Bass On Top; Sonny Clark’s Sonny’s Crib; Pepper Adams’ Baritones and French Horns;  Milt Jackson’s Bags and Flutes; Thad Jones’ After Hours;Toots Thielemans’ Man Bites Harmonica;  Ernie Henry’s Presenting Ernie Henry; Sahib Shihab’s Jazz Sahib; Julius Watkins; Clifford Jordon’s  and Charlie Rouse‘s Les Jazz Modes and two releases by Lee Morgan’s City Lights and Candy. Art Taylor was also a member of The Prestige All Stars on Interplay For 2 Trumpets and 2 Tenors. By then, he was still just twenty-eight and had come a long way.

Art Taylor had also released his critically acclaimed debut album Taylor’s Wailers, on Prestige in 1957.  He had spent the best part of a decade as sideman, and had stepped out of the shadows on Taylor’s Wailers.

Despite that, 1958 saw Art Taylor return to working as a sideman, dividing his time between live work and spending time in the studio. Just like the last few years, Art Taylor featured on a number of albums released during 1958. He continued to work with Gene Ammons, Donald Byrd, Gigi Gryce John Coltrane and Red Garland. Art Taylor played on Dorthy Ashby’s two albums In A Minor Groove and Hip Harp; Kenny Bureell’s Just Wailin’; Dizzy Reece’s Blues In Trinity and Louis Smith’s Here Comes Louis Smith. However, the following year 1959, saw Art Taylor turn his attention to his solo career. 

That was despite being busy working as a sideman for a growing number of jazz musicians live and in the studio. However, Art Taylor played on Clark Terry’s Top and Bottom Brass; Lem Winchester’s Winchester Special; Oliver Nelson’s Meet Oliver Nelson; Tiny Grimes’ Tiny in Swingville; Benny Golson’s Gettin’ With It; Arnett Cobb’s Party Time; Walter Davis Jr’s Davis Cup  and Jimmy Cleveland’s  A Map of Jimmy Cleveland. The other album Art Taylor recorded in 1959 was his much-anticipated sophomore album Taylor’s Tenors.

Just like his 1957 debut album Taylor’s Wailers, Taylor’s Tenors  featured two of Thelonious Monk’s compositions, Rhythm-A-Ning and Straight, No Chaser. The album also featured the Art Taylor composition Dacor. This was a first for Art Taylor, whose album was released to plaudits and praise just like Taylor’s Wailers. However, Taylor’s Tenors was the last album Art Taylor released for Prestige. His next album A.T.’s Delight was released on Blue Note Records.

As the sixties dawned, there was no letup for Art Taylor as he continued to divide his time between his solo career and his work as a sideman. Before recording his third solo album and Blue Note Records’ debut A.T.’s Delight, on the ‘6th’ of August 1960, Art Taylor worked on Arnett Cobb’s More Party Time and Movin’ Right Along; Kenny Dorham’s Showboat; Ken McIntyre’s Looking Ahead; Julian Priester’s Spiritsville; Charlie Rouse’s Takin’ Care Of Business ; Johnny “Hammond” Smith’s Talk That Talk and Lem Winchester’s Lem Beat and Duke Jordan’s Flight To Jordan on the ‘4th’ of August 1960.

A.T.’s Delight.

Two days after recording with Duke Jordan’s on  his fourth album Flight To Jordan, Art Taylor and his band made their way to Van Gelder Studio, in Englewood Cliffs to record A.T.’s Delight.

Joining drummer Art Taylor were bassist Paul Chambers, pianist Wynton Kelly, trumpeter Dave Burns, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and conga player Carlos “Patato” Valdes. They recorded six tracks with producer Alfred Lion.

For A.T.’s Delight, Art Taylor wrote Cookoo and Fungi, while the other five tracks were cover versions. This included John Coltrane’s Syeeda’s Song Flute; Kenny Clarke and Thelonious Monk’s Epistrophy; Denzil Best’s Move and two Kenny Dorham compositions High Seas and Blue Interlude. These six recordings became Art Taylor’s third album and Blue Note Records’ debut A.T.’s Delight.

When A.T.’s Delight was released to widespread critical acclaim later in 1960, and was hailed as the finest album of Art Taylor’s career. It was as if everything he had done had been working towards this one album. 

A.T.’s Delight opens with Syeeda’s Song Flute, which was a John Coltrane’s composition from Giant Steps that hardly anyone covered. It’s reinvented and reinvigorated by Art Taylor and his band who take the track in a new direction. Playing starring roles are solos by Dave Burns’ trumpet and Stanley Turrentine’s tenor saxophone while Paul Chambers pizzicato bass returns to the melody in this bright, percussive and uplifting epic. 

There was no surprise when Art Taylor’s covered Monk’s Epistrophy, which was originally called Fly Rite. It’s an atonal 32-bar tune in ABCB-form, where each member of the band enjoys their moment in the sun and showcases their considerable skills. This includes Carlos “Patato” Valdes’ whose congas compliment the drums as the arrangement bounds along during this homage to one of Art Taylor’s heroes Thelonious Monk.

As Move unfolds, the tempo rises and rhythm section power the arrangement along. There’s no stopping Art Taylor and the band who ensure the track swings and then some. Playing a starring role is trumpeter  Dave Burns who steals the show with a barnstorming and blistering solo.

High Seas is a relatively simple but extremely effective 32 bar minor key theme. It finds  Art Taylor’s drums and Paul Chambers bass power the pulsing arrangement along on this dark, bluesy and ruminative sounding track.

Cookoo and Fungi is the only Art Taylor composition on the album. When it eventually unfolds, it bristles with nervous energy before morphing into a calypso during the main theme. It’s akin to a trip on a musical roller coaster where it’s a case of expect the unexpected from Art Taylor and his band.

Closing A.T.’s Delight is the second Kenny Dorham composition Blue Interlude. It’s has a spacious arrangement that  breezes along and later becomes dark and moody but still swings as this all-star band showcase their skills one last time.

A.T.’s Delight was the third of five albums that Art Taylor released during a career that spanned forty-seven years. For much of that time, Art Taylor was content to be a sideman and worked with the great and good of jazz. However, when he took centre-stage on his first three solo albums they’re a reminder of one of the best and most influential and inventive  jazz drummers. Proof of that can be found on A.T.’s Delight, where Art Taylor comes of age as a solo artist on a flawless and truly timeless album that was the finest of his career.

Art Taylor-A.T.’s Delight.

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