TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. In his hometown, Chicago, a couple of decades ago, jazz drummer Chad Taylor played in the Chicago Underground duo and its trio, quartet and orchestra offshoots. Before that, Taylor had studied music at the New School in New York. In a new trio, Taylor regroups with a couple of allies from back then. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has more.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHAD TAYLOR TRIO'S "UNTETHERED")
KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Drummer Chad Taylor with old-school chums Neil Podgurski on piano and Brian Settles on tenor saxophone. That's from the Taylor Trio's album "The Daily Biological." I like the tough sound of this unit, partly due to a slightly odd lineup. There's no bass instrument, which throws off typical ensemble balance, but it opens up possibilities for different ways to kick the rhythm along facilitated by the tunes the players write, like "The Shepherd" by Brian Settles.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHAD TAYLOR TRIO'S "THE SHEPHERD")
WHITEHEAD: Whatever the mood, leader Chad Taylor moves all over the drum set, punctuating, swinging and bringing the hi-hat funk. There have been other trios with this instrumentation going back to the 1930s at least. Saxophonist Brian Settles' sinewy timbre, lean and ropey, puts a distinctive stamp on this tenor-piano-drums trio. But he doesn't play all the time, so the trio sometimes becomes a piano-drums duo with its own range of moods.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHAD TAYLOR TRIO'S "BIRDS, LEAVES, WIND, TREES")
WHITEHEAD: Chad Taylor on brushes and Neil Podgurski on piano, sliding a left-hand bass line under his fast-running right. Taylor's trio likes to change up the textures as players enter and exit. They don't always bypass the bass register. Tenor piano and bass drum can each dip down there.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHAD TAYLOR TRIO'S "SWAMP")
WHITEHEAD: Sometimes the trio pursues a simple strategy at length. On the back half of Chad Taylor's "Between Sound And Silence," tenor saxophone repeats a prayerful melody verbatim while the drums slowly come to a boil.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHAD TAYLOR TRIO'S "BETWEEN SOUND AND SILENCE")
WHITEHEAD: That somber episode is a little out of character for the trio, which is apt to be more jubilant. This college reunion is a happy one. The good vibrations radiate out from the drum stool. It's a backhanded compliment to call a drummer musical, so let's say that Chad Taylor gets a lively sound from the drums and mixes a broad, big-hearted Chicago swing feel with a New Yorker's way of staying on top of the details, so his rich, ever-varied drumming tells a story the way a good solo does, the way the whole trio does on the album "The Daily Biological."
(SOUNDBITE OF CHAD TAYLOR TRIO'S "RECIFE")
GROSS: Kevin Whitehead is the author of the new book "Play The Way You Feel: The Essential Guide To Jazz Stories On Film." He reviewed "The Daily Biological" by the Chad Taylor Trio. After we take a short break, our film critic Justin Chang will review the HBO documentary. "Welcome To Chechnya" about Russian activists trying to get LGBTQ youth out of Chechnya, where they're in great danger. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF DAVE HOLLAND QUINTET'S "NOT FOR NOTHIN'") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.