Sam Taylor Quartet – Along The Way –  CellarLive

Sam Taylor Quartet – Along The Way –  CellarLive CL050217 55:33***

A tale of two tenors

( Sam Taylor – tenor saxophone; Larry McKenna – tenor saxophone 1,2,6,7,9; Jeb Patton – piano; Neal Miner – acoustic bass; Peter Van Nostrand- drums)

Firstly, just in case it is not patently obvious, this Sam Taylor is not The Sam “The Man” Taylor, the American jazz and blues tenor saxophonist who famously used “honking” in his solos during his heyday in the 1950s and 60s. This Sam Taylor is a young Philadelphia native who is looking to find his niche in today’s tenor saxophone world. Perhaps that is the reason he hooked up with Larry McKenna ,the eighty year old tenor sax legend from the same city to record Along The Way for the Canadian label CellarLive.

This album is really two sessions. There are the five tracks with Larry McKenna and the four without his participation, and the contrast is significant. Taylor is just beginning his career, putting in the hours and developing his tone and ideas. At eighty, McKenna has done all that and although he may not have achieved the recognition he deserved, he is no less the player because of it. “Make Someone Happy” was written by Jule Stein with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the 1960 Broadway musical Do Re Mi. This version is a straight-ahead swinger with McKenna’s deeper tone tenor leading the way. Taylor comes is with a run through of the melody before each one takes a brief solo turn. This is not complicated stuff.

There seems to be some confusion over the exact spelling of the Fats Navarro composition “Fats Flats” or “Fat’s Flats” or “Fats’Flats”. Discographies disagree on this spelling, but there is no disagreement that is it a bopper’s delight. McKenna has grasped the bop styled requirement for short punchy phrases and chord changes with more facility than Taylor, with pianist Jeb Patton offering his own single note efforts in Bud Powell fashion.

Sam Taylor

The first of Sam Taylor’s quartet efforts is Ferde Grofé’s “On The Trail” from his 1931 opus Grand Canyon Suite. Taylor has an engaging style with a light tone, but is still a little short on original ideas. This will undoubtedly come with time. This is still an articulate version of the number, with bassist Miner quietly confident in his solo space. The following track is the ballad “Where Are You” and comes in at over nine minutes for no apparent reason. Taylor exposes his youth, inexperience, and a shortfall in exploratory instincts and consequently misses the marrow of the number. No listener wants to hear this on the job training.

The other Taylor/McKenna tracks are “The Close Things”, “There’s No You” and “ I Want More”. All work well, but the final number, which is a Dexter Gordon bop infused item, has the two tenors operating on all cylinders. After a unison opening, each takes a turn developing their ideas in swinging fashion with what seems to be a high-spirited enjoyment.

Make Someone Happy
Fats Flats
On The Trail
Where Are You
People Will Say We’re In Love
The Close Things
There’s No You
Wild Is Love
I Want More

—Pierre Giroux

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