Sam Taylor, Let Go Review
by Icrom Bigrad
Saxophonist Sam Taylor is releasing his third release for Cellar Live called Let Go. The album contains ten tracks and features trumpeter Terell Stafford, Jeb Patton (piano), Neal Miner (bass), and Willie Jones III (drums). The Harlem-based saxophonist and Philadelphia native recorded the album at Van Gelder Studios in January 2022. Taylor says of the energy behind the album, “Our world faces such heartache, fear, and profound grief. How do we meet that every day as individuals and as a society? Tenderness and loving-kindness could be the most powerful tools we have. In my own way, this recording is an act of defiance.” The septet performs a collection of songs by Barry Harris, Benny Golson, and Coleman Hawkins, along with one Taylor original and interpretations of rarely played standards from the American Songbook.
Let Go opens with the bebop melody by Barry Harris, “Luminescence,” Harris was a seminal figure on the New York City jazz scene who passed away a few weeks before the Let Go recording date. The chord progression is a well-known pattern, allowing us to hear Taylor’s approach to the standard changes. He is clear in spelling out the harmony while still playing melodic and rhythmically swinging passages.
The title track, “Let Go,” is Taylor’s first original to be recorded. The composition has the quintet swinging with a hard-bop-styled melody and form. Taylor has a warm, buzzing saxophone tone, and his phrasing and soloing elegance comes from the hard bop style. The rhythm section creates a jaunty swing feel for Taylor, and he digs in with clear articulations, rhythmic placement, and space.
Let Go does achieve Taylor’s goal of giving us joy through his music. Taylor says, “It was written during a year full of the unexpected, with invaluable new experiences and lessons. More than that was the validation of a virtue I have long held true in my heart as I live this life of music: music is an act of giving. Living a life of music is also a journey of generosity and letting go.” The result is an enjoyable straight-ahead jazz album filled with artful and giving performances by all.