Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Active Ingredients' Titration

I have no hesitation in saying that Chad Taylor is my favorite jazz drummer - nay, my favorite drummer period - around today, since hearing his work on the Chicago Underground albums, wherein he outshines Rob Mazurek at times by leaps and bounds, and his work on pop albums like Sam Prekop's solo material. Taylor's a versatile machine, subtle in approach but with surgical precision.

My curiosity piqued when I had heard Taylor finally pieced together his own outfit, Active Ingredients. The group features three Chicago players, three NYC players, and Taylor - a good overview of his work in the Windy City and his current work having relocated to New York. It's largely what one would expect, modern compositions heavily dependent on free atonal solos (and thus not strictly free jazz in the purist sense), but with Taylor leading the charge, instead of the usual frontman trumpet or sax.

Taylor's playing here is meticulous and aggressive, often working in differing time schemes, but still understated and minimalist when compared to more famous Chicago drummers like John Herndon (probably not the most fair of comparisons, but whatever...). His pieces are set up to provide healthy frameworks for the horn players to blast through, with David Boykin (tenor sax) giving the greatest of perforances here, particularly on "Slate" and "Modern Mythology," matching Taylor's balanced mix of technical and emotive (this was sometimes a problem with the Chicago Underground, as I've always found Mazurek to be more a technical player (though a great one at that), until they released the amazing Slon).

Titration's a worthy debut for Taylor, providing just enough time for Taylor to showcase his own playing without being overbearing. With less talented players surrounding him, Active Ingredients might not have worked, as Taylor's understated enough to require more push in the front line. Here, Taylor's found the perfect accompaniment and cohesion, making Active Ingredients one of the most exciting jazz outfits around today.

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