sweeter for the struggle

It’s an intriguing title, isn’t it? Certainly something that most people can relate to. Without conflict, tension, obstacles, friction, et al., we can’t fully appreciate the good.

The title comes from Dylan Taylor’s new album. Dylan and I started working together last year, and it’s been wonderful getting to know him both as a musician and as a person. Over the course of the last year+, we’ve done a lot of work together, including the soundtrack for a foreign film (which neither of us has yet to see).

From the beginning, the intention was to make a record that showcased Dylan’s diversity as a player and composer. However, I don’t think either of us could have predicted the range that is on full display here. The music takes turns of Boogaloo, Afro-Cuban, blues, straight-ahead, fusion, and Avant-garde. Instrumentally, Dylan plays upright bass, electric upright bass, cello, and electric cello. I mention the electric versions separately, because once you start running an electric cello through a Marshall half-stack, it stops being the well-behaved classical instrument that most of us have come to know.

The playing is phenomenal. Dylan’s innate sense of groove and signature solo stylings and licks tie the whole thing together and propel the listener from track to track. Being in a room while Tom Lawton figures out his part on a tune is a privilege. Witnessing a Craig McIver drum solo in the 11th hour, when we all thought the last good take was already in the can, has an energy that I can still feel. Being only a few feet away while Bobby Zankel wails on his saxophone will give anyone chills. The lyrical mastery of Bob Meashey’s soloing and the perfect sense of Steve Tirpak’s tight section playing were very illuminating. And of course, spending time with the great Larry Coryell, hearing his stories and witnessing his artistry, is beyond words.

That’s not to say there weren’t struggles, or else the album would not have earned its stripes. But the struggles, when dealt with the right way, should always benefit the end result. And I think that is the case here.

My role on this album encompassed a pretty wide range, from picking up Larry Coryell’s double espresso to engineering some of the sessions to weighing in on some of the most critical artistic choices. I embraced each role – whatever needed to be done to get this thing going was what I wanted to do. Hopefully I’m sweeter for it.

I’ll be sure to write more when the full album is released, but until then, I hope you enjoy the first cut, “Art the Messenger.” It’s OK to dance to this one.

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