Jazz Improve Magazine (www.jazzimprov.com)
By Bill Donaldson
Seattle resident Dawson Taylor (or, as he likes to be called, “Daws,” a nickname reflected in the URL of his web site) is a romantic at heart. Daws appreciates with knowing sincerity the words and feelings of some of the most popular love songs, and he chooses some of his favorites for It Could Happen to You. Even the title, according to Daws’ statement in the liner notes, has personal meaning because his married life has followed on a track parallel to the situation set up within the brevity of the song. That is, he has been fortunate enough to have fallen in love with the composer, Lois Taylor, of one of the songs on the CD, “Listen to the Rain.” Romantics, both of them. And who can fault them for the fulfillment they found in marriage?
In the liner notes, Daws makes an interesting observation about the songs — an observation that I have heard expressed in similar ways, but not previously about songwriters. He says, “A singer is a window into the song; the true genius is the songwriter.” Why? Because the songwriter can “express a love story in no more than a few minutes.” That’s obviously true, at least for the best of the love songs. This idea that the singer, or the musician, is but a channel to a more important source is a humble perspective, but also a profound one. For the singers/musicians who adopt this belief must, by the nature of their place in the musical hierarchy, be in a constant quest for the ultimate source of the music. In some cases, the ource of the music takes on more spiritual overtones. In Taylor’s case, he has found that source in songwriters. And so, throughout It Could Happen to You, he remains dedicated to honoring the songwriters whose music he has absorbed through a lifetime of listening.
Taylor gives the impression at first that he’s solely a singer, backed by a piano trio that pushes the beat and boosts the vitality of the performances. But then, Taylor whistles a chorus. On the first track, “Like Someone in Love,” the entire package presented by Daws appears: his unforced voice, his vocal improvisation derived from many singers of past recordings, the bristling piano trio, the insouciant whistling. One is led to think that everything that follows will be similar.
Well, yes and no. The guitar heard in the background is Taylor’s, and it becomes apparent on the next track, “Close Your Eyes,” that Taylor is quite the guitarist. Indeed, his guitar work on that song helps to flavor it with a taste of the samba, and we find during Taylor’s solo that he possesses a melodic sensibility when he plays guitar as well. After that, the inclusion of Taylor’s guitar playing on some of the other tracks would continue to enhance them, but he defers to his singing (and whistling) on most of the songs except for those requiring a Latin suggestion such the bossa influenced “Listen to the Rain.”
Taylor’s backup trio, though, is an impressive presence unto itself. Pianist Randy Halberstadt’s solo on “It Never Entered My Mind” reshapes the song after Taylor’s first choruses, lengthening the phrases and reharmonizing into prismatic colors for iridescent effect. Halberstadt’s solo on “I Concentrate on You” is concise and logically built for dramatic effect, with its subtle start and crescendo to its high point. Bassist Jeff Johnson’s strength in setting up a foundation for the songs is apparent throughout “It Could Happen to You,” not to mention the wit of his introduction before the song’s walking bass lines. And drummer Mark Ivester’s role as “percussionist” rather than drummer is apt, for he does add percussive effects to “I Concentrate on You,” developed as a beguine. All in all, It Could Happen to You projects a sense of sincerity and happiness that succeeds as no doubt an expression of Dawson Taylor’s personality.