Tom Taylor and the Needlewood Orchestra 

Sixty Seconds with Tom Taylor

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Indy: David Grisman and the Kronos Quartet have appeared on your albums. Did you have them in mind when you wrote those pieces?

TT: No, I didn't. I usually come up with a composition, put it down on score, then spend time thinking about the proper way to orchestrate it. One of the pieces was sort of bluegrass, so that seemed like a real obvious one to get David Grisman on. And the studio where I was recording [when Taylor was still living in California] had a sound tech who was also Grisman's tech. So I gave Grisman a call and he said to just play the basic track over the phone. I held the phone up and he said, "Yeah, it sounds like you know what you're doing, I'll be there."

Indy: Your Needlewood Orchestra debuted at Packard Hall last week with electric guitar, bass, French horn, valve trombone and sax. How did that go over?

TT: A lot of my students [Taylor teaches jazz guitar at Colorado College] were there, so it was a forgiving audience. I think we did pretty good for a maiden voyage.

Indy: The musicologist Sol Babitz, who was part of Stravinsky's circle, insisted that composers like Bach actually invited rhythmic variation and improvisation, as opposed to what he called the "sewing machine" approach to performance. Having composed a piece called "Ode to Joy Blues," I take it you're sympathetic to that view?

TT: Sure, and that's kind of what I'm doing with this hybrid of jazz and classical, where I get the rigor of the compositional devices that have been passed down by people like Stravinsky and Mozart. If you just have executants who can only play those little dots on the page, then there are really no open areas for improvisation. But when I give a melody to [saxophonist] Mark Rose, he shapes it and inflects it with decades of jazz influence I might not have conceived of. And it just sounds gorgeous.

At Pikes Peak Center's Studio Bee, Nov. 12.


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