Hailed by Guitar Player magazine as “arguably the most relevant blues artist of our time”, Otis Taylor is the one of the most compelling artists to emerge in recent years. Part of his appeal is his contrasting character traits and element of surprise – whether it’s his unique instrumentation (he is a consummate four, five and six-string banjo player), the sudden sound of a female vocal, or a seemingly upbeat optimistic song that takes a turn for the forlorn. But what remains consistent is his poignant storytelling based in truth and history. Indeed, his desire to discuss heavyweight issues such as murder, homelessness, tyranny, and injustice has seen him compared to political figures such as Steve Biko.
Although Taylor’s music is based in the blues and folk realm, his meticulously crafted recordings crash the barriers of jazz, rock, funk and Americana to create a hybrid that Taylor labels “trance blues.” And that signature style serves as a backbone for his frank tales of struggle, freedom, desire, conflict and love.
For his debut Ronnie Scott’s performance, Taylor presents music from last year’s release, My World Is Gone, a lightning bolt of musical creativity and social commentary. Its songs crackle with poetic intelligence and a unique, adventurous sound that balances the modern world with echoes of ancient Africa, Appalachia and more. For this album, Taylor embarked on a soul-searching journey into the psyche of America’s indigenous people. With his customary brevity, power and grace, Taylor conveys his stories in intimate detail and uses his rich baritone voice to give his characters breath and humanity. Melancholic vocal performances are buoyed by the gentle melodies of fiddle, electric and acoustic guitars, while Taylor’s stories rest on the backbone of his primary instrument, the banjo.
Otis Taylor’s own parents were an important part of his musical foundation. His father was a passionate jazz fan who encouraged his son to become a musician. Born in Chicago in 1948, his parents relocated their family to Denver when Taylor was a small child. In addition to listening to jazz in his father’s record collection, he fell deeply under the spell of the Mississippi Delta legend John Lee Hooker, whose spare, almost mystical sound still resonates in Taylor’s own work. His other vocal totem is James Brown, whose shouts and howls inspire the thunderous vocal declamations that punctuate many of Taylor’s own recordings.
Over the years, Taylor has garnered more than a dozen Blues Music Awards nominations, and White African won Best Debut Album. He is also regularly nominated as an instrumentalist, and won a Blues Music Award for his imaginative banjo playing in 2009. His albums have won Downbeat’s Best Blues CD awards in 2005, 2007 and 2008, while his release, Contraband won Downbeat magazine’s Critics Choice award for Blues Album of the Year.
Ronnie Scott’s, 47 Frith Street, Soho, W1
Reservations:www.ronniescotts.co.uk // 020 7439 0747
For Full Tour Dates visit: http://otistaylor.com