Paul Taylor
Whirl And Magnet
Discus 167CD
(2024)
Available formats: CD/DL

 

“Taylor’s music is sublime, with various monumental structures, yet incredible in its polytonal, polyrhythmic, whimsical characteristics that are so evocative and personal.” – New Dawn Of Prog

“Taylor notes that there are ‘certain indelible influences’ in his playing, with nods to phrases from a variety of prog rock classics ….. but his mention of these influences does a disservice to his ability to create, in real-time, pieces that feel so complete and vibrant.” – Chris Baber, JAZZ VIEWS

“Paul is an incredible talent on the Hammond, and he shows off his skills on the organ, and experiments and improvises throughout the album, so there is a lot to discover here.”  – Gabor Kleinbloesem STRUTTER’ZINE

 

Paul Taylor – Hammond C3 organ

Paul Taylor is an improvising pianist / electronics player based in North East England, and who is often heard as a solo improviser. Here he turns his attention to two improvisations for Hammond organ, an instrument which allows him to explore his passions for both jazz and more progressive / kosmische styles.

The Hammond C3 organ at the erstwhile Sage Gateshead Music Centre (now The Glasshouse International Centre for Music) is a powerhouse of an instrument hidden in plain sight. Concealed in a corner of the basement labyrinth of studios and practice rooms, I’ve rarely heard or seen it played in earnest by anyone else.

Being privileged to work in an environment surrounded by music and instruments, it did not take me long to encounter this timeless box of tricks. Nor did I need much encouragement to uncover the keyboard, fire up the archaic starting motor and hear the mechanical whirr of the Leslie rotary speaker cabinet scythe through the air. And then to see what I could conjure up from the hidden recesses of the unfamiliar box of tricks.

The piano is my primary instrument, and over the years I have recorded many albums of solo piano improvisation. Although the organ’s keyboard is the same as the piano’s, the two instruments completely contrast in terms of dynamics, sonic quality and range, and thus require very different approaches to playing and technique. The organ requires greater, or more accurately, different levels of dexterity and physical stamina than the piano, especially when played solo. As well as the necessity to be able to play the keyboard to some standard, there is also a battery of switches, drawbars and pedals to contend with, all of which must be mastered to some extent in order to create a coherent piece of music.

Growing up immersed in the soundworld of progressive rock, albeit doing so anachronistically in the 1990s, an era intrinsically hostile to all things prog, the sound of the Hammond organ in all its infinite glory and permutations has become a familiar landmark in my musical hinterland. It was only a matter of time before I rose to the challenge of creating new music with the Hammond, and I am very grateful for this opportunity to do so.

Although these recordings are completely improvised, the discerning listener will be able to detect certain indelible influences, which I will not divulge here.

I would like to offer my profound thanks to Martin Archer at Discus Music, who initially heard these recordings, saw something in them, had faith in their potential and then invited me to release them as an album.  – Paul Taylor, October 2023

Reviews

Having discovered an underused Hammond C3 organ in the bowels of Gateshead’s Glasshouse International Centre for Music, jazz pianist Paul Taylor grappled with the complexities and nuances waiting to be coaxed from the instrument. Unlike Keith Jarrett’s beatific meditations following his 1976 discovery of a baroque pipe organ in a Bavarian church, Taylor’s musical stream of consciousness has a decidedly physical dimension to it, giving the impression that he doesn’t so much play the instrument as attempt to tame an obstinate but magnificent beast. Replete with ground-shaking bass notes, startling harmonic shifts, and sundry clicks and clacks of preset keys, drawbars and foot pedals, there’s a sense that the music is beautifully natural yet almost mechanical in essence. Acknowledging his interest in 1970s progressive music where the C3 was the textural foundation and workhorse of many a band, Taylor delves into the possibilities of the organ through two suites edging toward the 20-minute mark, and while not directly quoting anything from that era, the musical architecture comes with a familiar echo. – Sid Smith, PROG

In 2018, Paul Taylor‘s discovery of a Hammond C3 hidden away at the Glasshouse International Music Centre in Gateshead set him off on a voyage of discovery

It was not just a personal musical one, but also an opportunity to fully liberate the bulky and some might say archaic device from its classic image and give it a whole new lease of life. His description of firing up the starting motor and hearing the Leslie speaker start to revolve is warming, and his obvious love and even hidden desire to put the organ through its paces is clear from the two adventurous improvisational pieces collected here.

The celestial whirr, the sustained sense of tension is tied to the revolving speaker, giving whatever is played a constant momentum and you can feel the effort; this is no mere tinkling of the ivories as the grunt required to control the pitch and work around the foot pedals and drawbars makes it more like playing the organ whilst flying a light aeroplane — and yet it feels easy. Whirl And Magnet sways and swings with gusto, the drifting notes gathered up and scattered while chords are interspersed with single notes and swept along. There are momentary pauses, lulling us before more drama overwhelms and then recedes, always playing with the mood, always alive to new possibilities.

Recorded pre-covid, you can’t help but enjoy the unleashed sense of adventure here, as if the instrument itself were somehow alive and leading him away from the kind of ecclesiastical tedium it might have spent many previous years performing. The notes unfurl, peel away layers and then set themselves back, flowering in this forgotten corner, joyful and reactionary, perfectly content to allow this player / instrument symbiosis. At times sounding like a steam train starting off and at other becoming the aural equivalent of a kaleidoscope, never sitting still, the constant hum of revolution giving a fresh slant to every key touched.

The second section feels more playful, as if Paul has gained confidence in the machine; and conversely the Hammond is allowing him to develop, has seduced him into a touch of recklessness. The different levels of echo and sustain, the sensation of scampering up and down the keyboards with added flourishes all lead into a certain prog-funk direction, if only for a second or two, before being discarded for something more sepulchral. It moves seemingly at random; but towards the end, the notes are really allowed to inhabit the space, letting them sustain and fade into a final curious coda where the notes’ structure appears to dissipate, wandering loosely and giving us pause to consider what further adventures these two may undertake.

What I would love to see would be Paul revolving through the floor of the Tower Ballroom, Reginald Dixon‘s ghost and the assorted tea dance throngs trying to sashay to the wayward delights which he has conjured up. It goes to show that there is a future for something that is as enjoyable as any organ out there now, and perhaps this is the start of something. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ https://freq.org.uk/reviews/paul-taylor-whirl-and-magnet/

PAUL TAYLOR comes out of the North East of England, and he is playing one of the greatest music instruments of all times, which is the Hammon C3 organ, and despite the instrument has been part of many music genres during especially the 1970s, it’s especially known in the progressive rock genre. However, now in 2024 I immediately must think of DE WOLFF, a well-known rising rockband in The Netherlands whom are known for their Hammond Organ player. However, I have never experienced a full-length CD that is entirely based on the Hammond Organ only, because that is what this CD of PAUL TAYLOR is all about. There are no further instruments used during the 2 longs songs of Paul’s debut CD Whirl And Magnet on DISCUS MUSIC. It does feel like you’re in a church somewhere, because after all the sound is similar to a church organ, but Paul is an incredible talent on the Hammond, and he shows off his skills on the organ, and experiments and improves all throughout the 40 minutes of the album, so there is a lot to discover here if you’re a fan of the instrument.(Points: 8.5 out of 10) – Gabor Kleinbloesem STRUTTER’ZINE

In a corner of The Glasshouse in Gateshead, the concert temple that catches the eye with its fantastic architecture as well as the Millennium Bridge and the Tyne Bridge that connect Gateshead to Newcastle Upon Tyne, a Hammond C3 organ has been waiting to find an admirer like PAUL TAYLOR. The pianist in Newcastle, who has also recorded “Cusps”, “Anomalies” and “Via” on a Steinway grand piano, was able to deal intensively with it in the spring of 2018 and savour its obvious and even more hidden charms. This can now be heard as Whirl and Magnet (DISCUS 167CD). To appreciate it, I first follow Taylor on “Immram” with Mellotron & CP80 Piano in the footsteps of Old Irish tales concerning a hero’s sea journey to the Otherworld; on Steely Dan’s ‘King of The World’ inspired “Cobalt Cigarettes” with Piano & Virus TI synth; on “Axis Mundi” to Keys and with a sung poem by Blake in 2018 at St Dominic’s Priory, Newcastle; with Hammond and Farfisa Organs, Mellotron, Virus TI synth and bass on “Esplumoir”, inspired by the Sirius moonlight and Merlin turned into a bird; and with “Avalon of the Heart: Live Soundscapes at St. John’s, Glastonbury” (on 8.10.2022, John Cowper Powys’ 150th birthday). This is how I got to know him as an admirer of the Welsh occultist and Rosicrucian Dion Fortune (1890-1946) and as a theosophically inspired seeker of meaning and grail by Annie Besants & C.W. Leadbeater’s “Thought-Forms”. I follow him at a distance, with “A Glastonbury Romance” as my guide. And be rewarded with mystically shimmering, impulsively piercing Hammond sound on a humming drone, as if broken through stained glass windows. No less dissent than John Zorn’s metasacral organ turbulence, with agitated whorling, ostinato emersonism, wild fluting, rhythmic moaning, violent thrusts over standing, only rarely pulsating drone. Only in the last quarter do the flying fingers calm down for solemn chords, but they continue to chop up quickly pieced melodies, which finally sink into a standing, wafting wave. Great title! – Rigobert Dittmann BAD ALCHEMY

The press release tells us that Taylor is playing the Hammond C3 organ, live, in the Sage Gateshead Music Centre (now The Glasshouse International Center for Music) through a Leslie rotary speaker cabinet. This was enough to pique my interest and bring to the surface my love-hate relationship with all things prog. More than that, though, was the idea that someone would be brave / daft enough to attempt two lengthy solo recordings on this beast – with all the stops and buttons and switches and pedals to content with. Amazingly, Taylor makes the instrument not only submit to his exciting creativity but he makes this sound like it was comfortable and easy to do. The relatively short album contains two pieces: first comes in at just over 17 minutes and the second is nearly 20 minutes. Both pieces are certainly long enough to demonstrate his creativity (and you wonder, given the behemoth that he is playing, long enough to exhaust the player). The opening bars on the first improvisation carry sufficient intimations of the gothic and prog rock to stir the imagination. But, rather than the noodling around in the hackneyed pseudo-classical sounds into which prog rock so often tends to sink, he lifts the music into a stellar plane. The progression of the piece shifts delicately between the minimalism of early electronic music (I’m thinking particularly of composers like Milton Subotnick, although more in spirit than sound) and jazz chord progressions. The Hammond C3 organ has a way of making tunes sound like end of the pier vaudeville and this, as well as the complexity of operating it, is a further battle that Taylor wins hands down. The second improvisation, in a sense, picks up from where first left off. It seems to emerge from the echo left by the first piece, but immediately picks up the pace with rapid trills and runs. What is impressive is his ability, even on the fastest arpeggios, to allow the notes their space so they don’t smudge into each other (in ways that an organ like this could impose). He notes that there are ‘certain indelible influences’ in his playing, with nods to phrases from a variety of prog rock classics and could be a bit of a parlour game to spot these. But his mention of these influences does a disservice to his ability to create, in real-time, pieces that feel so complete and vibrant. – Chris Baber, JAZZ VIEWS https://jazzviews.net/paul-taylor-whirl-and-magnet/

Whirl And Magnet severs up two improvised tracks for Hammond organ- with the tone of the pieces shifting between jazz & prog rock / kosmische music. The release appears on Discus Music as a CD or digital release- I’m reviewing the former of these. The CD comes presented in an off-white mini gatefold- on the front cover, we have a mirrored green & pink psychedelic graphic-topped & tailed with the releases title & artist’s name. Inside we get a page-long write-up about the album/its recording- basically, it was all played on a Hammond C3 Organ, which sits in the labyrinth basement of the International Centre for Music in Gateshead. The two tracks featured here are simply titled Whirl And Magnet- Part one & Part two. The first part comes in at the 17.21 mark, and the second at six minutes shy of the twenty-minute mark. Before I go any further, I’d say you’ll have to have a passion for 70’s prog music to fully enjoy/ get pulled into what we have here. Yes, it certainly leans towards jazz improv as well as classic seaside organ recitals at points, but I’d say the key influence here is the playing of the likes of Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. So, if you could imagine a jammed-out/ loose session from either of these two after they’ve maybe had a few smokes back in the 70s…you’ll get an idea of what we have here. Each of the tracks retains a constant-yet-shifting flow. Been built around a mixture of cascading runs, piping climbs, lightly grooving jaunts, and a general blend of weave and sustain. The whole is more about tone & pitch than melody and consistent shape. I’ve always had a soft spot for 70’s prog, as well as general retro organ playing- so Whirl And Magnet certainly did appeal to me. However, I think the lack of consistent grooves, melodies, and shape/ structure will only see me return to this when I’m in the mood for a less formal freak-out/ drop into a pure organ-tone workout. – Roger Batty MUSIQUEMASCHINE

A deep bass tone introduces the proceedings, and suddenly a magical kaleidoscope of psychedelic color surrounds the listener, the swirling sound of Leslie speakers encircles and follows the listener through the next portal, the first of many as part one of Whirl and Magnet proceeds forward. Taylor is known best as an improvising solo pianist, but for the two lengthy tracks at hand, a Hammond C3 organ at the Sage Gateshead Music Centre presented itself to Taylor, tucked away in the corner of the basement labyrinth of practice rooms. As soon as Taylor was able to uncover the old keyboard and get its motor running, a rapid learning process began — conceptually the piano and C3 are similar, in that they both employ a keyboard, but with the Hammond there are additional pedals, switches, and drawbars that the player needs to deal with to set the tonewheels and produce something worthy of being enjoyed by a listener. All of the subtle nuances and colorful scintillations of the instrument come to the fore when handled by a masterful player, which Taylor was able to become in short order, and bring out the best in the machine. An important factor when considering the two parts of Whirl and Magnet is that each half — roughly the length of an LP side each — is a pure improvisation that can go anywhere at any time, and rarely repeats the same theme twice, instead turning and twisting through varying sonic panoramas, sometimes gentle, sometimes slightly chaotic, but always interesting. By once taking on the mighty C3, hopefully Taylor has opened the door to further organ improvisations in the future. – Peter Thelen, EXPOSÉ http://expose.org/index.php/articles/display/paul-taylor-whirl-and-magnet-3.html

Here’s something unusual:an album comprosed of unaccompanied Hammond C3 organ – a format I’ve not come across before. Taylor, a well-known solo improviser, wrests some fascinating textures and sounds from this antiquated but versatile instrument; the two lengthy workouts here reward repeated listening.  – Kevin Whitlock, JAZZWISE

Paul Taylor is a pianist and keyboardist specialising in improvisation, hails from the Newcastle area (upon Tyne) and works in some form at Gateshead’s Glasshouse International Centre for Music. At the beginning of 2018, he recorded two extensive solo improvisations on a Hammond C3 organ located there, which eventually landed on Martin Arche’s desk and he liked it so much that the material was released on CD by Discus Music in January 2024 under the title “Whirl and Magnet”. I don’t know too many Hammond solo albums. I even assume that “Whirl and Magnet” is the first one I hear. The instrument is very important and formative for the emergence of prog, at the end of the 60s and 1960s. At the beginning of the 70s of the last century. Taylor also notes that he grew up immersed in the sound world of progressive rock, rather anachronistic for the 90s, and that the sound of the Hammond organ was a familiar and important fixture. So he had no problems using the dignified instrument for his own new music. “Whirl and Magnet” offers two long solo organ numbers, which glide along very directly, live improvised, clearly and transparently produced, and sound pretty much as they came out of the Leslie loudspeaker in Newcastle. The sound result can hardly be classified stylistically, is neither particularly jazzy, nor rocking, nor sacred. They are just free improvisations on the electric organ, quite tonal and never wild or weird, yet quite intricate, sometimes solemnly striking, sometimes a little more hectic surging, sometimes calmer meditating, always interesting to listen to, even if not really thrilling. The whole thing seems like classical etudes played on a Hammond organ, sounding out the possibilities of the instrument, but without, as various prog organists have done in the past, letting loose from time to time. That’s why you wait a little (in vain) for something spectacular to happen. If you love the warm, vibrating sound of the Hammond C3, you should check out “Whirl and Magnet”. There are no progressive rock excesses (such as those on “De Rossi E Bordini”, which I reviewed some time ago), or even a few driving grooving parts, but the sublime, filigree whistling, briskly dancing and playfully scurrying Georgel is still very worth listening to and fascinating. It is rare to hear the electric organ so clear and pure. Maybe Taylor will team up with a drummer for his next excursion on the C3. This could be quite an exciting affair. – Achim Breiling, BABYBLAUE SEITEN https://www.babyblaue-seiten.de/album_21557.html#oben

Paul Taylor with his album “Whirl And Magnet” brings two fantastic compositions, which are based on improvisations on the Hammond C3 organ. So, only one instrument, but everything is put together fantastically, and the music pulls you into a hypnotic vortex from which you don’t want to leave. This album showcases the wealth of the keyboard player’s talent and influence. During its duration, we can hear many elements and implementation of styles that intelligently cross prog, jazz, and elements of cosmic music. The music perfectly balances the mentioned styles and gives a unique sound, backed by dexterous and fluctuating organ parts. The album is strange, particular, complex, and combines all these characteristics in an engaging fascination. Taylor’s music is sublime, with various monumental structures, yet incredible in its polytonal, polyrhythmic, whimsical characteristics that are so evocative and personal. The concept is divided into two parts, united by fascinating and undisciplined power. The musician’s approach is comparable to the undulating progression of the musical flow itself and wanders between the mental and sensory spaces in an avalanche of ups and downs, punctuated by the rich chords of the Hammond. The music presents large layers of sounds, dosed with great intuition and instinct. The compositions are convulsive pieces characterized by continuous emotional scales, from the now celestial, now dark bases of the organ, and above all from the dramaturgical parts, tense and vibrant. “Whirl And Magnet” is composed with collage technique, developing an initial idea and attaching many intricate harmonies, and subsonic disturbances, each of which is the consequent development of the previous one, demonstrating the very high level of professionalism achieved by this artist. – New Dawn Of Prog

 

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