Chris Taylor: Never Make Your Move Too Soon
CT: Thank you, that's a great compliment. It's the way I write. I have an idea of what I want to do tonally and feel-wise, and I kind of get an image in my mind of the contours of the tune, almost as a visual image. Then I try and get down as quickly as possible melody, harmony and rhythms, and then I go back and refine it. But it has a shape to it. The unfolding definitely describes the contours. That's exactly what I'm trying to get so I'm very happy you heard it that way.
AAJ: You talk about the visualization of the music, and the track "Green Divided by Blue" is dedicated to or inspired by Russian-born American painter Mark Rothko; can you talk about your relationship to his paintings and your music?
CT: I'm just a huge fan of his art work. His work has always had a big effect on me. I like the simplicity on the outside of his paintings and the depth to them. One of my favorite quotations of all time is by him when he said, "silence is so accurate," which is ironic to say during an interview. I think that was in response in talking about his artwork. If he didn't speak about his art work because it said everything. I try to capture tonally a little of how his paintings affected me.
AAJ: Rothko was always classified as an abstract painter though he didn't like the term; can you relate to that feeling if people say of you:"Oh, Chris Taylor, the fusion guitarist."?
CT: Yes, exactly. The fusion word has such bad connotations. It has great connotations too but the bad ones are the excesses, a lot of notes, long solos, you know, dated. Those connotations can be really bad. On the other hand, you have albums like [trumpeter] Miles Davis' In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969), Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970) , and bands like Weather Report, who produced amazing music. But I don't like trying to put a genre on the music I write. And calling it jazzwhich is such a wide open field these daysI don't know that that covers it either. To me, jazz is more about a ride cymbal. My music is influenced by all these different genres.
AAJ: There's another Rothko quotation which is thought-provoking, which I quote in part here: "To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it." Can you relate to that in your own creative process on Nocturnal?
CT: Not consciously , but that's definitely true. I like that wider expanse. I think that's part of the whole cinematic approach to music that hauls you in. It's certainly true of his paintings. When you stand in front of his paintings they are bigger than you, so you're definitely pulled into them in a way that is much more intimate. Musically, I would hope that I achieve that, to pull the listener in a way that is intimate, instead of music that is concise and easy to define. I like to leave more for the imagination.
AAJ: A very striking track on the record is "All of Us." It sounds like a hybrid of guitarist Bill Frisell's darker-hued country blues and bassist/producer Bill Laswell's alchemy, with the sotto voce tabla and electronic undercurrents. Can you talk us through this number?
CT: Yeah, Bill Laswell's definitely a big influence on me and so is Bill Frisell. I've been listening to Laswell since the Material days. I was in college when that record Memory Serves (Celluloid Records, 1981) came out and it just blew my mind. It was not like anything I'd ever heard before and I loved it because of that. That's definitely the angle I'm coming from in that song.
AAJ: Are you planning to tour with this music? How difficult is to get a band together?
CT: I'm hoping to get out and perform some of this music on Nocturnal. A lot of the guys are out on the west coast and I'm in the midst of working out a way to perform this live. A quintet would be ideal for this music. But it's more difficult to travel and play this music now. Ideally, you want to get other musicians who have their own records out and pull your resources, so that you tour and play music from each person's record. Of course, you have to find something that is compatible that way. It's really difficult; you see people like [guitarist] Scott Henderson who can't tour the States, and I don't think [Scott] Kinsey's played the east coast with his music yet. It's shocking.
strong>AAJ: It defies all logic. Henderson, Kinsey, these people knock you out. Now that you've stepped out as a leader with Nocturnalyou've also talked about a co-leadership project with Steve Tavaglione is recording your own music and doing your own projects the way you want to go from here?
CT: I definitely want to keep putting out music as a leader. It was really cathartic. In a way I'm very glad I waited because I feel like I got to the point where I had something to say.
Chris Taylor, Nocturnal (Abstract Logix, 2011)
All Photos Courtesy of Chris Taylor/Abstract Logix