John Taylor’s new Vonnegut-inspired suite on Jazz on 3 tonight

John Taylor

One of my highlights of the recent Cheltenham Jazz Festival was hearing the very first performance of the new BBC Radio 3 commission from pianist John Taylor and a fabulous band which included Julian Arguelles, Chris Bachelor and Oren Marshall.

The good news, if you missed the gig, is that Jazz on 3 was there to record it, and it’s going out on the broadcast waves this evening – the programme is on from 11pm – and will then be on the i-Player for the next seven days.

Here is what Jazz on 3‘s Jez Nelson has to say:

“We seem to have been marking special days a lot recently, what with the first International Jazz Day and last week’s portraits programme. This week we’re celebrating another landmark – the 70th birthday of pianist John Taylor. He’s gathered family and friends around him in a one-off octet to give us a present (albeit one which Radio 3 commissioned!) – a brand new suite, performed for the first time at the Cheltenham Festival.

“Taylor has chosen a short story by American writer Kurt Vonnegut as the loose basis for the piece, and the chapters move through a range of moods, from the laidback swagger of the opening section, Doozy, to the uneasy mystery of Deer on the Moon. Taylor’s writing allows plenty of space for the likes of saxophonist Julian Argüelles and tuba player Oren Marshall to show their improv chops, with some beautiful lyricism from trumpeter Chris Batchelor and trombonist Henning Berg at times too, supported by a rhythm section that includes John’s sons Alex (guitar and vocals) and Leo (drums). Taylor senior often feels more like bandleader than star turn, gently prompting from the piano rather than spending too much time under the spotlight, although when he does it’s signature stuff.

“There’s another anniversary on the programme tonight, and it’s a big one – this week it’s 100 years since Gil Evans was born and we’ve picked out a gem of an excerpt from the Radio 3 archive, remembering Gil’s under-represented ‘electric’ period in the 1970s, and hearing archive footage of Gil himself. There’s also a great story about one star performer Gil declined to work with in a novel way!”

Chris Laurence is on double bass in the John Taylor band, by the way.

Find out more about jazz on BBC Radio 3 here. And my review of the Cheltenham concert is here.



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1 reply

  1. I have just finished listening to this set on Jazz on 3. As always, Taylor was superb and his compositions deserve an album outing but I think some of his fellow musicians need to be more familiar with the harmonic content of the material. I look forward to hearing this commission again when everything is tighter.

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