This month John Wheatcroft looks at another side to perhaps the UK’s finest jazz guitarist, the incredible Martin Taylor.
John Wheatcroft meets a true legend of jazz guitar, the incredible Howard Roberts.
Martin Taylor, or to give him his full title, Dr Martin Taylor, MBE, is one of the most successful jazz guitarist the UK has ever produced. With good reason too, as he is an absolute monster. Whereas most musicians would content themselves with one speciality, over Martin’s extensive career he has proved himself to be equally accomplished in a hugely varying array of settings. Whether it be ensemble or solo, accompanist or band leader, Martin’s staggering technical mastery and innate stylistic understanding allows him to deal with the unique challenges presented by such contrasting performance situations.
The music of Django Reinhardt has been an ever-present influence in Taylor’s life, from his earliest exposure to this style by his father, the bassist William ‘Buck’ Taylor, who frequently performed Django’s material, to the decade or so that Martin spent as ‘solo guitare’ in Stephane Grappelli’s later-era all-string ensemble. Martin’s Spirit Of Django celebrates these connections and he is always welcomed by Django’s family and the gypsy community as a whole. He regularly performs in a duo setting with the Gypsy guitar ace, Biréli Lagrène - a pairing not to be missed.
We’re focusing today on Martin’s plectrum based single-note soloing technique, as he might employ when playing in a band situation. His phrasing, note selection and rhythmic command are superb and his lines indicate a complete assimilation of the history of jazz. You can always discern the rhythmic intention of everything he plays; the harmony is so explicit in his note choice that you could take any of the nine examples that follow, play them unaccompanied and you’d still be totally aware of the underlying harmony.
While spending time woodshedding in isolation is useful, focusing on super-specific issues, it’s also immeasurably beneficial to play with other musicians. Martin’s resumé is also a testament to the levels you can reach when you keep such good company. The amazing Ike Isaacs mentored Martin during his formative years, so with this in mind get together with like-minded bassists, piano players, sax soloists and drummers to glean harmonic and rhythmic ideas. So, while learning the examples is a significant accomplishment, the ultimate goal is to assimilate the vocabulary, concepts, and techniques and then apply them when you get together with other musicians to play. You’ll have a great time doing this, and I’m certain that Martin would be the first to agree.
When I Was four years old, I pIcked up my dad’s guItar and started to play It. apparently I made very quIck progress Martin Taylor
NEXT MONTH John takes a look at the playing of legendary US jazzer Howard Roberts
Martin Taylor playing one of his signature model guitars