Discus: DISCUS167CD

Paul Taylor: Hammond C3 organ

Written, performed, recorded and produced February – March 2018 by Paul Taylor at the Sage Gateshead Music Centre.

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.