Rusty Taylor: Jazz + Country = Southern Comfort
RT: Well, I'm thinking about the melody in my head, listening to what's going on around me, and I try to go to different places with itdepends on the musicians that I surround myself with. And they and the crowd seem to dig what I am doing and want more. Before I went pro, I used to imitate a lot of the singers I like. The same applies for guitar solos (scatting the guitar solos), stuff like "Hotel California." That laid the base, and through that I developed my scat skills.
In terms of phrasing, I heard other singers and what they were doing, but when I sing, I can almost see where the space lies and when some of the other notes can go, and I can hear it in my inner ear. I'm not sure how I do what I do, but I do love the lyrics and the melodies of the songs I sing, and they themselves sound well when I sing them. I love the words to be heard. So, I tell a storyprobably has to do with my writing too. I like to write long syncopated sentences. Also, in my writing, the rhythm is more important than the meaningfor me, at least.
AAJ: Would you like to elaborate about your writing?
RT: I've got a weird styleit's pretty bombastic, a lot of big words. I write them for myself, and if anyone digs them, they are more than welcome to read it. I've just finished the latest revision of a novel I am working on. I've also got autobiographical manuscripts.
I'm not sure that your readers are aware of that, but I am a quadriplegic, and I broke my neck in 1986. As a matter of fact, this past month was my 25th anniversary. It has made me focus on things and do things I'd probably wouldn't do, had I not been paralyzedsinging and writing.
It's been a wonderful trip so far, from that point onward. I've got a great family-and-friends network that supports me. It made things easier for me in terms of my creativity. That had allowed me to do things not a lot of people in my position would have done. One of my manuscripts highlights the lighter side of paralysis. I've got another novel and some children's storiesa story about a bird that's afraid of heights, a butterfly that's colorblind, a centipede that's in a wheelchair.
I've recently begun writing lyrics for jazz songs. There's a beautiful tune called "James" by Pat Metheny, which was written for James Taylor. So, I'm thinking of lines and illusions I get from James Taylor's songs, and I'm putting them into words that go with the Metheny melody. That inspired me to write lyrics to other songs also.
AAJ: How did you choose the tunes for your CDs? What's the story behind it for you?
RT: Where I come from, jazz is not really the thing. The songs I chose are pretty much heavyweights. I wanted to go with the heavyweights for the initial recording. I just really dig those songs; they are so complex and beautiful, and we don't get to hear them that much down here where I am [located]. I have a big collection of music, and just picked the songs that I really like to sing. And there's the challenge bit. For example, "'Round Midnight"there are certain parts of it that are really challenging for a singer. Three songs on the CD are really challenging, and I was proud that I could do them and have them for posterity, I guess.
Thelonious Monk's style is really intriguing to me, and I really don't know why it inspires me to sing, but it just does. Maybe living and playing/singing with dissonancesgoing in all kinds of musical directions and bringing it back together at the end. It's the story of his life. I think that's why I really relate to it.
AAJ: How is it to sing jazz in your neck of the woods? Do you sing with country-like embellishments? Is it country-jazz?
RT: I do really dig country music, especially the old country classics. It's big down here in the Southmuch bigger than the jazz scene. I've been influenced by people like Joe Allison. I have one of his tunes on my CD. We changed it from a waltz to a little swinging version. It's called "He'll Have to Go." Jazz is getting more and more common here, through societies like the Columbus Jazz Society. We have a monthly jazz jam, where I sing. People really seem to be digging what I'm doing. I am singing it for those folks. Never thought to call it country jazz, but I like the sound of it.
AAJ: How would you define yourself as a singer, your voice in particular? Would you say that it's a parallel to your life?
RT: A parallel to my lifeyes. I would say I am peaceful until I cannot be peaceful anymore. A little bit of both. Peace through music. And I just sing this way, didn't do anything in particular to achieve this mix. It just happened.
AAJ: What was the urge or reason to produce the CD?
RT: I wanted to do it and to see if I could do it. After the accident ... I realized that life is short, and there'll be a time when I look back and say to myself, "I should have done that." I didn't want recording in a studio to be one of those things.