THE HANAH JON TAYLOR ARTET – HyrPlasis
(2009 Tiger Fish)
Madison sometimes doesn’t realize how lucky it is to have talent of the caliber of Hanah Jon Taylor in its backyard. So few jazz CDs get released locally as it is, and especially a CD of all original material. So the release of HyrPlasis in late 2009 should have been met with rapt enthusiasm. As it is, it’s difficult to find a review at all, even in the U.S. Taylor has always seemed to be more famous in Europe, where he spends a lot of time touring each year. He’s acclimated to this situation no doubt. But if there is one local jazz CD you should have, HyrPlasis is the one.
Taylor surrounds himself with class, the same cats he’s been playing with for some time now: drummer Vincent Davis, bassist Yosef Ben Israel and pianist Kirk Brown. Madison’s Mattan Rubenstein (piano) and bassist Vito Caricati also appear. The core ensemble seems to have telepathic qualities as they are able to weave themselves around Taylor’s graceful and sometimes spastic melodies and groove furiously as Taylor explores the outer reaches of expression. The whole album is like a conversation but not like typical two-way (or in this case four-way) conversation is. It’s more like the flurry of thoughts that run through your head as someone speaks. Occasionally your attention turns to the supporting messages rather than the primary message. What makes HyrPlasis so uncannily remarkable is that it’s like a single voice.
The conversation almost always begins with Taylor. His lyrical tenor sax marks the opening of the title track, a twelve-minute expedition that begins the album. Brown, Davis and Caricati join in and the Artet goes through an astonishing expansion and contraction with Taylor providing fiery squawks and squeals amidst blistering runs. It may be the most emotionally charged playing Taylor’s committed to tape.
Taylor is generous as well, giving Brown a lot of space on “Songo Red.” Brown makes the best of it and delivers an impressive extended piano solo. Here Taylor takes the flute and when he brings it back in after Brown’s solo you can feel the inspiration as well as the mutual admiration.
Another standout is “Vertigo,” which eclipses the fifteen-minute mark. Taylor is renowned for his use of the wind synth and it’s on full display here as the band ventures beyond Sun Ra’s home planet of Saturn before the flute returns to announce re-entry. Israel’s bowed bass is particularly effective as are Brown’s electrified keys. The mood is so eerie that it practically induces vertigo on the listener. Davis is stunning throughout the album and here he bridges the wind synth and flute sections with a rousing drum solo. Elsewhere his playing is sharp and distinctive, giving the Artet a fusion flavor. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Billy Cobham.
Two tracks are trio pieces. “7-7-5-7” is interesting in that these are the number of notes Taylor’s flute employs in each phrase of the opening section. “Istanbul” is more rhythmic, suggesting bop. There is also a beautiful duet with Rubenstein on “Precious Time,” a song Taylor composed for his son.
The core quartet of players recorded two songs live. “When Betty met John” and “Luna Mia” both highlight Brown’s keyboard, the latter being the only track on the album that is initiated by someone other than Taylor, in this case Vincent’s percussion.
HyrPlasis is a triumph for Taylor and his Artet and a milestone for jazz recordings in Madison (it was mostly recorded at Madison Media Institute where Taylor is employed as an instructor). If you love the real thing; the gut-wrenching depth of expression, the inner improvisational voice of humanity being brought out to the world to hear in tones, then HyrPlasis is an experience that you will want to hear and a venture that you will want to take repeatedly.