A review of Nocturnal written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange by Mark S. Tucker
From the rush of psychedelic mindmeld in the opening of Voices in my Head, it's obvious guitarist Chris Taylor isn't interested in the staid and traditional (hee-har!, catch the dog barking in the background and the babble of TV insanity as well as delicate infusions of electronica), 'cause, as soon as the bent porridge of brainstun fades and the band launches its set-up, Taylor's into a Holdsworthian display, twisted and abstract, intro-ing the famed Steve Tavaglione's trademark soprano sax. The huge influence of Weather Report on this disc makes itself clear as the song transmutes in Zawinulian fashion while staying true to complicated melodics, complete with—and, oh man, bless Taylor for this!—Body Electric intimations. For a first cut, Voices lets you know precisely what to expect: anything and everything.
Nocturnal is the first solo work Taylor's issued after 30 years of gigging following a dearth of funds to complete his Berklee schooling way back when. He's also been applying himself to the tech side of the art, and, judging from this issuance, the guy has it all down cold, producer and co-mixer of an exceedingly clean slab. To boot, he hired in top talent besides Tavaglione. Kevin Freeby's bass work in "Ear to the Rail", as just one instance, is brilliant—Percy Jones with Ron Carter's sensibilities—as are Tracy Kroll's e-drums, indistinguishable from the real thing!, but you also get Dave Weckl, Gary Novak, and others, every single participant a master of his/her instrument. And if unsatisfied that Freeby appears in only one cut, Ric Fierabracci is everywhere else, just as dynamic, bouncing around like a mad dervish.
Think later Mahavishnu Orchestra and McLaughlin's solo work from Electric Guitarist forward, Nucleus, early Jean-Luc Ponty, Steps Ahead, Brand X, touches of Group 87, Spyrogyra, and a wide variety of top fusion ensembles because Nocturnal stands solidly in with those venerables. Taylor rarely grandstands, manning the keyboards often, unbelievably generous with concessions to the rest of the players, much more interested in the totality of the compositions, a flowing river of interwoven chops and elucidations never standing still or within ten miles of the cliché. In many ways, the sensibilities are European but with that American something that transmigrated the eminent vibe of Klaus Doldinger, Keef Hartley, Ian Carr, The Trio ('member Conflagration?), and others into new waters.
Thus, reader, are you tired of the Fest circuits and their redundantly trite and safe confections as well as all the half-ass wannabes but not quite in the mood for the sturm und drang crowd? Well, here's your blue plate special, served steaming hot (even within the atmospherics) and ready for consumption. Gorge out, you won't gain a pound, not with all the lightning licks and Escher-esque soundscapes.