Jonathan Taylor at the Blue LLama

On Thursday, April 13, at the Blue LLama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor the Jonathan Taylor Quartet (JTQ) generated big energy and joy to complement the lovely spring weather and lots of folks milling about downtown Ann Arbor. As friendly Blue LLama staff served beverages and gourmet food, JTQ launched into a Joe Henderson tune, “If,” with Tim Haldeman on soulful tenor sax, Taylor’s rolling tsunami on drums, with tinging hi-hats and cymbals. Ian Finkelstein deliciously chorded a quick cool dance on his keyboard, and Jaribu Shahid plucked blissful bass lines propelling a strong unified sound.

SEMJA Review

A few songs were composed by Taylor, starting with “Trust No One,” sounding initially like Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Desafinado.” Avian sounds on a spring morning flowing from the sax and the piano tinkling like new bangles. Another reflective Taylor original presented was “Zohar,” a meander through medieval texts of commentary on Jewish mysticism. Each soloist posed their own questions of life’s mysteries.

In another Taylor composition, “Attack Mode,” Shahid’s bass began shooting diving, dashing moves, while Taylor sent smooth shuffles and rolls, followed by some neat sparring from sax and bass with Taylor barreling in behind with intense softness lifting all notes. A very enjoyable show so far, with much laughter fused with some heady stuff, and a fresh variety of rhythms, tempos and intensities. Monk’s “San Francisco Holiday” was a light rambling stroll by Ian Finkelstein along his 88-key boardwalk, with a great Taylor drum solo as he allowed the group to charge ahead with his strong but light hands.  “Hung Over Easy,” a Mark Elias tune, had the best blues piano riffs of the whole set. This delightful set finished with Taylor’s “Intermission Music,” basically a hard groove duet with bass and drums delivering multiple moonshine rhythmic shenanigans. Kudos to the great sound system at the Blue LLama making this show well worth my time. The choice of just one stout available, however, left something small but essential to improve on.