Focus: Paul Taylor | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photo by Ken Drew

Who are you?
Paul Taylor, Newcastle based pianist and keyboard player.

What is it you do?
I’m a pianist and keyboardist, specialising in combining jazz, classical and ambient approaches to improvisation. This is probably a long-winded way of saying that I make it up as I go along…

I mainly play solo. and have performed at some wonderful venues in recent years, including Durham Cathedral, Sage Gateshead, Victoria Tunnel and festivals in the UK and in Romania and Slovenia. I’m also involved with several other projects in the North East improvisation scene, including the trio The Long Lonesome Go and Alembic, a vocal/piano duo with singer Melanie Fox.

How long have you been doing it?
I’ve been performing solo improvised concerts for about 9 years now, starting with a few gigs with Jazz North East. However, I have been playing and composing on the piano and keys for 25 years, also playing with various bands and projects in London and Newcastle.

What inspires you?
That is a difficult question, and the easy answer would be “everything”!

However, more specific inspirations include nature, travel, different cultures, literature, all kinds of music, and the sense that music is the best means possible to express the inexpressible, the secrets of the heart and soul that everyone has. When it works best, music is a cathartic, unifying and transformative experience, taking one from mundane, worldly concerns to another realm that is both more real and unreal. Sorry, that sounds rather cosmic, which is why I prefer to let my music do the talking!

Tell us about your music.
My music is primarily improvised on the spot, but starting from and developing upon themes and motifs in my head. I love my music to have the element of surprise, and I often have no idea how a performance will develop and resolve. This can be quite precarious and can feel like a high-wire act, which is part of its excitement for me. Much depends on the venue; its dynamics, acoustics, audience and ambience. And also on the instrument itself: pianos can vary wildly in character and quality, according to the venue. 

I mainly try to play acoustic piano, but occasionally I play the acoustic piano through a synth, which provides a rich, reverberant effect. I also play keys and synth if no piano is available. I try to make each performance unique and a document of that particular time and place.

There are some jazz influences in my music, but it’s also inspired by the classical tradition, with elements of ambient music present as well.

My latest album “Via” was recorded at Sage Gateshead last March, literally in the last few days before the first lockdown. It’s quite different from previous albums, and listening back, it captures some of the sense of urgency, anxiety and change of those strange days. I was very fortunate to get the recordings completed just before the world shut down, and I was able to keep myself busy compiling the album during the spring and summer.

I’m delighted that it has been included on New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings first batch of releases, which includes other new albums by North East luminaries John Pope and Andy Champion. The NJAiM label is a wonderful new initiative by Jazz North East promoter Wesley Stephenson. He is also the director of Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music, and because the festival was obviously not able to take place last year, he’s had the brainwave of creating the label as a positive response to the lack of live music and as a means of supporting musicians on the North East jazz and improvisation scene and beyond. I reckon the label will achieve much-deserved success in the coming year.

What have you got coming up in the future?
Obviously, the live horizon is somewhat limited and tenuous at the moment, but I’m excited about plans for a combined AV/ music concert at Durham Castle that I am scheduled to perform in the spring, either with full audience attendance, socially distanced or via live streaming. I will improvise music to accompany visuals that will be displayed both inside the castle and externally. The castle is a conspicuous landmark for miles around, so hopefully, the light display will be quite a spectacle.

I’m also applying the finishing touches to an album of soundscapes and ambient pieces inspired by the sea and mythology that I have recorded during last year’s initial lockdown. This will show quite a different, contrasting aspect to my playing; ethereal, lush, dense synth and Mellotron textures, ridiculous amounts of reverb, the music redolent of nostalgia and evocative of far away, remote vistas. At least that is the intention…

Where can people find out more about you?
My Bandcamp page, comprises of 19 releases to date, including the latest album, “Via”, which is also available on the New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings page.“Via”:
My YouTube channel consists of various videos of recent performances, including ones of concerts at Durham Cathedral and Victoria Tunnel in Ouseburn.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paul.taylor.piano
Twitter:     https://twitter.com/PaulTaylorPiano

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