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The Best of Martin Taylor

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Album Review

It would seem futile to argue with the definitiveness of a retrospective compiled by the artist himself, but the truth is that many artists are far from being the best judges of their own work. Martin Taylor did choose the 26 tracks that span this double-disc, which draws from his recordings for such labels as Columbia, Linn, The Guitar Label, and others. But although the compiler/artist would undoubtedly take issue, some of these picks are less than stellar, with an outsized reliance on the safer, less far-reaching aspects of Taylor's work. Often called the best jazz guitarist of his generation, Taylor's discography is extensive and covers a vast landscape of styles and approaches. He's never less than superb technically, his tone is always pure, and when he takes his foot off the brake — as he does here on stratospheric tracks such as "The Kraken" and the solo guitar piece "Kwame" — his brilliance is unquestionable. However, all too often on this set, for practically the entire first disc, in fact, Taylor drags along, spilling out new-agey licks that are beneath his ability and often approach the somnambulant. The opener, a take on the Earth, Wind & Fire classic "That's the Way of the World," sets a sleepy tone that doesn't pick up for more than half-an-hour. Some of the other covers, among them an abominable working of "The Odd Couple" TV theme and a technically dazzling but surprisingly passionless "I Got Rhythm" (which he performed as a member of Stéphane Grappelli's band), belong on an album of filler material, not a best-of. On the other hand, when Taylor switches into Django Reinhardt mode, as he does on Reinhardt's "Nuages" and Taylor's own "No Pedestrians," it's apparent why he receives the plaudits he does.


Born: 1956 in Harlow, Essex, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Since the death of Joe Pass in 1994, Martin Taylor has become one of the most highly regarded guitarists in jazz. He was given his first guitar by his father, Buck Taylor. Although he was inspired at first by Django Reinhardt, it was piano players like Art Tatum that drew his attention and helped him practice to develop his phenomenal solo technique. In the late '70s, Stéphane Grappelli invited him to play in a series of concerts in France. The violinist was so impressed that he used Taylor often...
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The Best of Martin Taylor, Martin Taylor
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