One bright morning last January, saxophonist Sam Taylor started his day by writing down his intentions. It was an important day, the day that he would lead a quintet featuring trumpeter Terell Stafford in the same historic recording studio where John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard and Stanley Turrentine recorded, to track his third album for Cellar Live. Locking in his focus, Taylor’s message to himself was to be grateful, mindful and fully present for the recording experience, and most importantly, to give and let go. The resultant ten-track swinging jazz set “Let Go,” produced by Taylor and Cory Weeds, drops October 21 on CD and October 28 digitally.
Taylor’s set list consists of selections from the Great American Songbook, including songs written by Barry Harris, Hank Jones, Benny Golson, and Jule Styne. However, one can argue that the centerpiece is Taylor’s own composition. The Harlem-based artist wrote the title track, marking the first time he ever recorded one of his own songs. “Let Go” embodies Taylor’s ethos as a musician.
“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 musician surrenders to the music, interprets the song and shares that with others. To surrender, to be tender and giving is a show of strength, an act of defiance. This is an empowering idea. 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,” said Taylor.
Recorded at Van Gelder Studios, Taylor and Stafford are flanked on the album by a trio comprised of pianist Jeb Patton, bassist Neal Miner and drummer Willie Jones III. Taylor grew up in Philadelphia listening to Stafford, a renown and respected talent who teaches in the City of Brotherly Love at Temple University.
“Terell Stafford is an international jazz star, a fixture on the Philadelphia jazz scene and one of the city’s artistic leaders. To have the opportunity to know him and play with him now as a professional musician is truly special. I remember attending a workshop while I was a young student at The Performing Arts High School in Philadelphia. We took a bus up Broad Street to Temple University where students across the city sat and listened to Terell’s group play and speak about jazz. I remember his emphasis on rhythm, the triplet, how to feel the beat. He was giving and patient. I can honestly say he is just as genuine and giving now. It is an overwhelming honor to play this music with him,” said Taylor, who will perform at Rite of Swing Jazz Café at Temple University on November 10.
Recently released as a single, the album opens with the bebop anthem “Luminescence,” which was penned by Harris, a seminal figure on the New York City jazz scene who passed away a few weeks prior to the “Let Go” recording date.
“I invited my musical heroes to come together, to bring their powerful voices into a space, surrender and let go. Terell, Jeb, Neal and Willie were masterful. The space, a studio that echoes with jazz history, made the day that much more meaningful. I haven’t the words to express my gratitude. My hope is the music communicates that clearly and fully.”
“Let Go” contains the following songs:
“Out of the Past”
“Prisoner of Love”
“Here’s That Rainy Day”
“Philly New York Junction”
“You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile”
“Bye Bye Baby”
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