In a world
where big business record labels attempt to quash risk and in the process smother originality and experimentation, thank the lord for the continuing strength of the real independent labels and re-emergence of Cherry Red Records.
Since humble beginnings saw four twenty-something young men getting together to relieve the boredom and jam some old 1960s theme tunes around the, not-so fashionable for the time Hammond organ, The James Taylor Quartet very soon found themselves recording a John Peel Session and releasing a debut mini album to critical acclaim. Sixties theme tunes soon turned to Hammond organ jazz – which is nice! – the likes of Jimmy Smith & Jimmy McGriff; and with the release of the Theme to Starsky & Hutch, JTQ found themselves up to their butterfly collared shirts in the Acid Jazz scene.
For over 25 years James Taylor has lead JTQ through several genres, many albums and more line-ups you can shake a stick at, as he continues to be the only surviving member from the band’s original ‘Blow Up‘ session. For their latest album, James Taylor has stumbled upon something different, interesting and as far as I am aware, very unique. In fact, all the elements I suggested the big business record labels will steer well away from.
Following successful concerts at London’s Festival Hall and Rochester Cathedral, where The James Taylor Quartet performed live with the forty-strong Rochester Cathedral Choir, The Rochester Mass was recorded in just one day and is released in full by Cherry Red Records on Friday 4th December.
The Rochester Mass is a coming together of JTQ’s distinguished style of British acid jazz funk and the beautiful choral singing of a 40-strong cathedral choir. The album is comprised of 10 tracks and begins with Sanctus Pt 1. The song is a perfect introduction to the album (especially for those unfortunate enough not to have witnessed the live performance) as it gently and subtly brings the Rochester Cathedral Choir into what otherwise appears to be another smooth JTQ funky Hammond organ tune. Then Sanctus Pt 2 begins. The Hammond organ is reminiscent of an early 1970s Deodata heavier funk take, on jazz funk. With a flute, the song swirls around like leaves in an Autumn breeze; and the song is filled with young choral voices. The fusion is complete. The album is a linear ride – a concept album preaching to the unconverted from both sides of the fence.
With The Rochester Mass, James Taylor has taken a step into the unknown. Obviously, some of the JTQ diehard fans aren’t going to be as excited about this as they might be with another straightforward jazz funk album, but that is exactly why an album like this needs to be appreciated and credit given to James Taylor for attempting such a fusion of two completely different music genres. Whether for personal satisfaction or not, the fact is this is not music for comfort zones. Whether the album receives as much critical acclaim as the live concerts that took place earlier this year, it’s comforting to know that music will always be more interesting when it challenges, experiments and looks forward rather than to the past.
The Rochester Mass has James Taylor not sitting on the fence, but trying to burn the fence down; and who wants to sit on a burning fence!?
The Rochester Mass by James Taylor Quartet & the Rochester Cathedral Choir is released on 4th December on Cherry Red Records.