Saturday, August 17, 2013

Melvin Taylor – Beyond the Burning Guitar Album Review

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the January 31, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Melvin Taylor – Beyond the Burning Guitar

Eleven East Corp

24 tracks / 89:03

It used to be that whenever someone mentioned jazz guitar to me, I instinctively thought of it as the background music that played while I was eating overcooked pasta in bad restaurants. But as the years went by, I spent a lot of time listening to Django Reinhardt, George Benson, Charlie Christian, and John Mclaughlin, and realized that I had shortchanged myself by not giving this genre the attention it deserves. My exploration into this music introduced to Melvin Taylor’s work, as he is a fabulous jazz guitarist who ranks among the best in the business. He recently released his tenth studio album, Beyond the Burning Guitar, and it is quite a winner.

Melvin Taylor was born in Mississippi, but grew up in Chicago so he got to enjoy all of its wonderful musical influences. He took up the guitar as a young child, and is completely self-taught. Early on he caught the attention of Pinetop Perkins, who asked him to join the Legendary Blues Band for a European tour. Since then he has been recording on his own and touring with his own band, opening up for some true legends, including Buddy Guy and B.B. King.

His latest release, Beyond the Burning Guitar, is an ambition piece of work, with two discs, 24 instrumental tracks and a ninety minute play time. Melvin Taylor plays all of the guitar and bass parts, Bernell Anderson joins him on keyboards and Señor Jefe takes care of the drum and percussion parts. All of this music was written and arranged Mr. Taylor, with the obvious exception of his adaptation of Beethoven’s fifth symphony.

Melvin is known for being a jazz guitarist, but it is not really fair to pigeon hole him based on one part of his abilities. As I said earlier, he has a strong blues background, and this release contains jazz, blues, fusion and even some rock; often times they are mixed together so that you would be hard-pressed to fit them into any one genre. You will find this out when you hear track one, “Dueling Guitars of Rio Terra,” as it is some really incredibly tough Spanish-influenced music. There are many layers of guitars to hear, and he has a gorgeous acoustic tone and incredible dexterity. I found that I missed out many of the nuances of this music when I played this through my car stereo, so this album is best heard through a good home sound system or headphones.

He hops genres frequently, and the second track is a jazz song titled “Steppers” that showcases how smoothly Taylor can play the guitar. Señor Jefe holds down a freakishly regular beat while Anderson adds just the right amount of mood with his keyboards, and you will find these things to be true throughout this double album. You will notice that there are no vocals on these tunes or anywhere else on Beyond the Burning Guitar, and it simply does not need any as the guitar fills the vocal role nicely. Also, the tracks are relatively short, with all of them coming in under five minutes each.

Mr. Talyor serves up some rock and blues material as well, most noticeably in “Rock In Blues” and “Sweet Blues,” as you can guess from their titles. “Rock In Blues” leans more towards the rock side, but there is a discernible blues foundation to this song. Taylor shows off his incredible chops and cuts loose with guitar pyrotechnics that are comparable to what Vai, Satriani or Hendrix have recorded. “Sweet Blues” has the Chicago blues sound with Hammond organ chords, a classic walking bass line and a heavy 2-4 drum beat. Melvin weaves two completely different guitar parts over this base and everything meshes together perfectly.

I could go on and on as there are a metric ton of tracks here, but you get the picture. The only downside to this two CD is set is that there is just too much of a good thing here, and it is hard for me to focus for an hour and a half on complex guitar music. If this is the only gripe I could think of then Melvin and his band did a pretty good job!

Melvin Taylor has gifted writing and guitar playing talents, and Beyond the Burning Guitar is his best work thus far. If you love guitar music and entertaining instrumentals, do yourself a favor and check out his music.


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