“I want to play and write creative music that can uplift the lives of everyday people,” says guitarist-vocalist Ed Taylor. Throughout his career, Taylor has performed a wide variety of music that consistently pleases both himself and his audience. His accessible guitar and vocals are distinctive and memorable, as can be heard on his recent CD which is named after his group, TaylorMade.
Born in Yuma, Arizona, Ed Taylor remembers, “In Yuma we lived near military bases. I had an aunt who often dated servicemen and they would bring over jazz records. I loved listening to them. In Arizona at the time there was a lot of blues, funk and country. I also gravitated towards the British invasion rock bands, so I was well rounded musically.” Among the musicians who made the biggest impression on him were George Benson, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Wes Montgomery.
When Ed Taylor was 13, a part-time employer gave him a guitar as his pay. After making a demo at a local record store, Taylor began to play professionally as a young teenager. Mostly self-taught, he had an open-minded style from the start, influenced by jazz and blues but also open to soul, r&b and rock music. “I played at a lot of fun little clubs in Arizona and Los Angeles, the chitlin circuit that was in the Southwest. It was exciting and we mostly performed fun funk and rock.”
After moving to Washington State, he attended Tacoma Community College and the University of Washington, taking classes in acting, business management and music theory. After he graduated, he worked his way down South with trombonist Dan Daglow, eventually landing in Los Angeles where he worked as a session musician. “I lived in Los Angeles for 12 years and did a lot of background work for Motown, often recording arrangements by Kim Richman with a rehearsal band. The stars would record over what we had played. After a time I realized that I wasn’t going to become one of the Marvin Gayes or Michael Jacksons, but I did learn a lot on the technical side during that period which has helped me produce my own CDs. I also developed as a singer/songwriter and I learned a lot about jazz and life from players such as Ray Brown and Jack Sheldon.” During his Los Angeles years, Ed Taylor played everything from rock to polka, country to r&b and jazz, both in the studios and in clubs.
By 1983, Taylor had tired of the Los Angeles lifestyle and he moved back to Tacoma, Washington where he still lives today. “After a period outside of music, around 1990 my wife persuaded me to return to performing since I used to sing and play the acoustic guitar around the house. So I took a chance, performed at a local bar, and the people went wild. I went out and bought some gear, started working as a solo guitarist and different people were attracted to what I was doing. Musicians started sitting in with me and that’s how the TaylorMade band was formed.”
Originally TaylorMade band was a trio. Their debut recording, Good Is Good (made for Chinook Wind Records), has Taylor, keyboardist Dennis Blackmon and drummer Sirrah Noel mostly performing standards plus one original. “I like Good Is Good, particularly the way that the CD flows from song-to-song.”
Since that time, the group has expanded and is sometimes as large as a septet, teaming Taylor with Blackmon, trumpeter Kevin Englund, Tom Harmon on saxophones and flute, saxophonist Troy Christensen, bassist John Roberts and drummer Willie Fisher. They can be heard in top form on their 2005 release TaylorMade, a CD that consists of Ed Taylor’s original compositions. The music, some of which can be heard on his website is grooving, melodic, full of joy, and sure to put listeners in a happy mood.
Taylor/Made works an average of four or five nights a week in the Tacoma area. “We segue between jazz, r&b, smooth jazz, funk, rock and blues. If you don’t know the blues, you can’t play anything else. My band knows the blues!” The group is currently working on a DVD and a CD that is titled Songs From A Taylor which will be a collection of the band’s favorite songs including tributes to other artists.
Ed Taylor is enthusiastic about the future. “It took me time to realize that audiences love to see me have fun playing songs that I really enjoy as opposed to me playing songs that I think they might want to hear. We have some very good bookings around Tacoma and Washington State. For the future we hope to travel, record more CDs, play festivals and perform the music we love before more and more people.”
Veteran Motown session guitarist and producer Ed Taylor, who grew up in Los Angeles, has quietly been laying down his Wes Montgomery- and George Benson-inspired guitar licks for years at small clubs in the Pacific Northwest. He covered blues and soul standards on his long-overdue 2004 debut but now has finally released his first CD of all-original material. He slyly winks at that with the title, and continues its tongue-in-cheek wordplay on his last name with titles such as “Patterns,” “Funky Stitch,” “Sexy Threads” and “Happy Hem Line (Con Brio).”
Like his inspirations, Taylor lays down a bevy of notes on his electric guitar in an organic production that refreshingly sounds like it comes straight from a basement studio into your living room. Credit Taylor for giving ample room for his Ed Taylor Band— Dennis Blackmon on keys, Kevin England on trumpet and flugelhorn, Willy Fisher on drums and John Roberts on bass—to spread their wings. Relaxed, funky, bluesy and ’60s cool, TaylorMade is an ode to talented guitarists playing in small clubs everywhere.
Brian Soergel - Jazz Times Magazine (Dec 1, 2006)
Ed Taylor is the realist of real things in Tacoma regarding jazz
Ron Swarner - The Volcano (Jan 1, 2006)
Former Motown session guitarist Ed Taylor has released a sweet collection of Smooth Jazz tunes that are cool and breezy. The Tacoma, WA resident is well known in the Northwest for his jazz guitar stylings. However, jazz was not always his thing... Taylor began his playing at the young age of 13 - He grew up in Los Angeles and was heavily influenced by George Benson, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Taylor says, 'At the time I didn't know squat about playing guitar, but I could feel it.' TAYLOR MADE features some funky grooves ('Seven Inch Drop' and 'Funky Stitch'), silky smooth vocals ('Enough For 2' and 'Romantic Moments'), Latin-influenced jazz ('Sunset In Mexico'), and Smooth Jazz ('Sexy Threads,' 'Patterns' and the Radio pick, 'Shorts, Socks & Sandals'). The Ed Taylor Band features Taylor on guitar and vocals, Dennis Blackmon on keyboards, Kevin England on trumpet and flugelhorn, Willy Fisher on drums and John Roberts on bass. Put a little Northwest jazz in your music collection and pick up TAYLOR MADE by Ed Taylor. ~SANDY SHORE
Sandy Shore - (Nov 15, 2006)
Tacoma's Ed Taylor offers 12 original songs on his newest album, 'TaylorMade.' The song titles are a play off the guitarist's last name, with references to articles of clothing, cuffs and scissors. Get it? Tailor, Taylor. Clever.
'Sexy Threads' is a good example of Taylor's approach to his playing. He plays a restrained, tasteful solo early in the song, then plays a faster, more intricate one later on.
'Cuffs & Lace' is smooth jazz, almost too smooth. Taylor seems to be reaching for listeners who like their jazz safe and sanitized.
'Patterns is better. It is sophisticated and smooth, without being too watered down. The instruments stay in the background as Taylor offers a tasteful solo.
The band gets a bit funky on 'Seven Inch Drop.' Taylor switches between an interesting effect and a clean sound. The horns blast out a bright, brassy sound.
'Sunset In Mexico' opens with horns reminiscent of Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. Dennis Blackmon conjures up a classic early '70s vibe on Hammon B-3 organ. Taylor reveals a bit of Carlos Santana influence in his solo.
Bass player John Roberts lays down a strong foundation for 'Shorts, Socks & Sandals,' spicing things up with some thumb slapping technique.
Taylor's vocals appear for the first time on 'Enough For 2,' a tale of true love that could be ending for some reason.
'Sitting here having a glass of wine/and having a funky time/soon there will be no you/in my life there will be blue.' This is basically a pop song, with Roberts punctuating the music with some bass licks.
'Funky Stitch' brings to mind War, the early 1970s band that combined rock with jazz and funk. Blackmon's keyboards move to the forefront with a long solo, then moves to the background as Taylor rattles off his solo.
'Don't Hate The Player' veers into blues territory. The lyrics are about a no-good character who can't hold a job and provide for his family. 'I've got five dollars in my pocket/and I was supposed to buy my daughter some new shoes/I know my wife is not going to be happy/and I feel less than a lowly fool.'
On 'Romantic Moments,'Taylor longs for a woman he loved who has died. 'If I could, I would/bring you back to life/and If I should see someone else, girl/it would be a problem in my life.'
'Straight With Scissors' is just Taylor and Blackmon. Taylor solos in the first half of the song, then turns the spotlight over to keyboards for the rest.
Taylor is a talented guitarist, and could easily had this album revolve around his solos. He recognizes the talent that surrounds him, and knows when to hold back and let the other guys display their skills.
'TaylorMade' is available at Another Record Store at the Tacoma Mall and Buzzards in downtown.
Ed Taylor plays at 9 pm on friday, March 3 at Pub 54 in Tacoma and at 8 pm on Saturday, March 4 at HG Bistro in Puyullup.
John Larson - Tacoma Weekly (Feb 23, 2006)