Saxophonist Mark Taylor was announced Northwest Instrumentalist of the Year at the 2009 Earshot Jazz Awards. Such esteemed recognition may be due to his high profile supporting roles on Origin Records releases by Thomas Marriott and Matt Jorgensen + 451. For Spectre, his first recording as a leader in six years, the Seattle, Washington-based Taylor presents an inventive set of original, progressive jazz. The quartet setting features Taylor on soprano and alto sax, pianist Gary Fukushima, bassist Jeff Johnson, and drummer Byron Vannoy.
Taylor's cutting soprano tone leads the way for much of the disc, especially on the bright, spirited title track and the loose funk of "Fleeting." The leader solos with overflowing confidence, allowing a steady stream of edgy, yet swinging ideas. Tunes such as "Maia" and Johnson's "The Art of Falling" reveal a mature improviser who prefers restrained lyricism over excess.
In between lengthy compositions are shorter improvised interludes that give the disc a continuous flow. Tantalizing spurts of energy such as "Opaque" and "Lucid" deconstruct various elements of one piece while setting up the next. A fine example of this is the rambunctious duet between Taylor and Vannoy, and exposed piano romp by Fukushima, on "Persiflage," acting as a tense buildup to the rather serene "The Ruse of the Muse."
Fukushima's exuberant playing on both piano and Fender Rhodes adds a fresh perspective to this vibrant session full of stand-out performances and unique compositions.