Jazz Review: Jessica Jones and Mark Taylor - Live at the Freight

A coffeehouse conversation.
  |   Comments

Jessica Jones and Mark Taylor - Live at the FreightMark Taylor (French horn) and Jessica Jones (tenor saxophone) get together to have a conversation with Live at the Freight, a record that illuminates a touching, subtle and somewhat eccentric dialogue between the two players.

They are backed by drummer Jason Lewis and bassist John Shifflet and the recording took place in June of 2011 at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley, California.

“Jessica and I really seem to connect musically on a lot of levels,” Taylor says. “I don’t think we play alike at all – and conceptually, we’re coming from different but complimentary places, which might be why we have so much fun.”

It is the little differences that make the dialogue between the two fun. Songs like “The Zamindar Gambit” and “Furious George” make their connection an amusing fulcrum by which the music swings, while mellower, plaintive textures inhabit the likes of “Waiting for the Vampire’s Redemption.”

Of course, it’s probably pretty easy to have an elastic set of conversations with Lewis and Shifflet at the helm rhythmically. Their easy-does-it foundation allows for almost anything and the pair, who has worked together for over 25 years, manages to achieve a lot by providing a little. Theirs is a foundation of subtle touches, elegant brushwork and laidback bass lines.

Some of the music comes from Taylor’s album At What Age. Two pieces (“By the Park at Midnight” and the aforementioned “The Zamindar Gambit”) come inspired by his “self-invented muse,” a character by the name of Osmium Zamindar. The character takes to life with Taylor’s playing, winding through sophisticated and mysterious passages with delectable form.

Jones, in the meantime, draws on Wayne Shorter – perhaps a no less fairy-tale figure. Her “Waynopolis” is built from this astute angle, running with Taylor on mellophone and a melodic hub that very nearly invokes the blues.

With influences running from Shorter, Ornette Coleman, Chet Baker, and a fictional-or-not Zamindar, the cast of characters running through the concentrations of Taylor and Jones fuels Live at the Freight with adventure. The tunes are exciting and cleverly presented, recorded with clarity and resounding quality without sacrificing the earthiness and get-to-it jazz at the core of this coffeehouse jam.