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ALBUM REVIEWS / JAZZ : 'Homage' Finds Inspiration in Swing Era : BILLY TAYLOR, "Homage" GRP ***

March 22, 1995|ZAN STEWART

This tasty disc showcases two Taylor strengths: his gift for melodic-based composition and his ever-evolving Swing-Era rooted playing. The title work, a three-part suite that spotlights the Turtle Island String Quartet with the leader's trio, is dedicated to early Taylor career influences, idols and employers, among them violinist Stuff Smith, bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Sid Catlett.

Each of the movements has stretches of simpatico melody, abetted by zesty solos from Taylor and the quartet: Darol Anger and Tracy Silverman (violins), Danny Seidenberg (viola) and Mark Summer (cello). Occasionally, there are flowing jazz lines that Taylor has orchestrated for the quartet, which are delivered with elan.

Save two tunes, the remainder of the disc is composed of the nine-part "Step Into My Dream," Taylor's musical impression of 125th Street in Harlem, written to be performed with David Parsons Dance Co. The appealing atmospheres, enlivened by the leader's natty improvisations, range from easy swing to calypso to gentle funk--73-year-old Taylor doing his version of a rap tune.

Recordings are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent.)

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