Taylor's Universe - Kind Of Red,
On August 17th 1959, Miles Davis released probably the most important jazz record of all-time, ‘A Kind Of Blue’. In November 1974 King Crimson released their final album before being disbanded, ‘Red’. So is this album a mixture of the two? Or am I being somewhat simplistic or reading something into the title that isn’t there? Having played this album numerous times I have come to the decision that maybe I am right after all. Take the second song, “Jakriborg”; there are some strong guitar lines that Fripp would be proud of – possibly some of the most direct from Robin himself on any of his albums – yet there is some wonderfully fluid trumpet and a real feeling that this is a ‘progression’ for Robin.
I have been lucky enough to hear the vast majority of Robin’s albums, whether solo, his free jazz group Taylor’s Free Universe, as well as Taylor’s Universe but for his thirtieth album he has brought together a group that musically has as much in common with VDGG, King Crimson and even Faust as they do with Miles. There are some incredibly simple yet poignant sections such as the syncopated rhythms in “Firestone”, melodies that are repeated and are extremely effective, leading to gentle keyboards (is that a Hammond I hear?) that brings to mind memories of Procul Harum before the trumpet takes a more centre stage.
The more I listened the more progressive influences I could spot, with Colosseum being particularly noticeable, but this is way more than just a cobbling together of different styles in the vain hope that it will produce something listenable: there is a real structure and layering of the instruments that shows that a master arranger has been at work to produce music that is complex yet incredibly melodic and easy to listen to at the same time.
When artists are prolific it is sometimes hard to know where to start – I avoided Zappa for years as I felt that I needed a guide (in the end I just plunged in and am so glad that I did) – and Taylor is a case in point. But take it from me this is an incredible album – if you have ever enjoyed Robin’s work in the past then this is something you will need to have, and if you have yet to start investigating then the time to do so is now. This is five stars in anyone’s language – incredible.