Those familiar with my reviews of Thomas Marriott's recent work will know that I find Mark Taylor to be a unique and refreshing voice on both soprano and alto saxophones. On Spectre, his first solo re-lease in six years, Taylor shows why he's an oft called upon saxophonist in the Seattle scene ? performing and recording with Jim Knapp, Matt Jorgensen + 451, Chad McCullough and many others. On Spectre Taylor teams up with the L.A. based Gary Fukushima on piano and Fender Rhodes, bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer Byron Vannoy, the results of which demonstrate just why this solo record is so long overdue. Taylor contributed eight of Spectre's twelve tunes, leaving the remainder to Johnson, Fukushima and Knapp. Although fundamentally unique, they all fit seamlessly into one aesthetic, allowing the album to form a cohesive whole with a strong narrative flow. The album maintains a constant forward momentum, from the opening title track to Fukushima's spirited and relatively straight-ahead closer, "First Among Equals." Taylor's "Opaque," on which saxophone, Rhodes and arco bass drag and stretch lines over Vannoy's sparse cymbals, and the equally brief "Lucid," which showcases pensive musings from Johnson and Taylor, serve to cleanse the listener's palette after the longer preceding works. Taylor's powerfully concise "Persiflage," begins with his burning alto over Vannoy's furious cymbal work. Fukushima's "The Rise of the Muse" is even somewhat Trane-ish, utilizing cymbal rolls, arco bass and spacious, rolled piano chords as an ethereal and floating base for to meditate over.
Not much remains to be said regarding the chops, virtuosity, creativity, and musicianship of these four men. Johnson is his usual sterling self, Fukushima and Taylor play off each other with lightning quickness, and Vannoy is rock solid and plays with exquisite taste, as ever. And you simply can't say enough about Taylor's soprano. His alto playing is equally fluid, melodic and fleet, and his tone has a slight edge and tartness to it ? in fact the line between his horns is often blurred. One can only hope it won't be six years until Taylor records his next record!