John Taylor ‘In Two Minds’ (Cam Jazz) 5/5

John TaylorNow resident for the most part in continental Europe where he lectures in Germany, Manchester born pianist John Taylor returns with a sumptuous solo outing which above all else showcases a beautifully evocative suite devoted to the Lake District. Indeed, the album opens with the virtually twenty minute ‘Ambleside Suite’ which is divided up into three parts. The first, ‘Coniston’, in the intro features playing of Bach-esque refinement and this gives way to a joyful piece. Part two, ‘Dry Stone’, has a more Satie-esque tone and is arguably the finest performance on the CD. The final part, ‘Ambleside’, is by far the most expansive and there are shades of McCoy Tyner in the phrasing here. Two standards are included on the set including a gorgeous rendition of the reflective Duke Ellington ballad, ‘Reflections in D’ and the influence of Duke is certainly heard in some of the inserted phrasings on Taylor’s own composition, ‘Phrase the second’. For those not already familiar with Taylor’s impressive CV, his collaborative work has included playing with the Mike Gibbs orchestra, Stan Sulzmann and Kenny Wheeler, not to mention long-time collaborator John Surman. Full marks to Cam Jazz for the luxurious quality of the photos in the inner sleeve. In general there is a delicacy of touch and lyricism that is the hallmark of an immensely gifted and individualistic voice on the piano. John Taylor is presently is in a new and richly creative period of performing. Tim Stenhouse