CD Review—

Harvey Taylor

A Planet Where Flowers Bloom, and Bombs Fall

Always down-to-earth but often breezy, calm yet intense, Harvey Taylor's voice can sing simple praises to the planet's natural wonders yet slam its senseless acts of war. Poet, composer and musician, Taylor's fifth CD combines spoken-word compositions with his original music in a wide array of styles. He manages to blend it all into an easy cohesion for this two-CD set.

Latin riffs, Arabian rhythms, jazz, blues, electronica and even gospel lend musical backdrops that enhance the poems' overall themes and detailed nuances. Taylor's low, soothing voice complements the guitars, percussion, strings and his own expert trumpet playing, whether meshing as an ensemble or lending stark, solo accents. Often praised for building collaborative communities of performing artists, Taylor worked with more than 25 local musicians for this collection, including Paul Cebar, Mike Kashou and Thacher Schmid.

Two back-to-back highlights illustrate the CD's war-and-peace theme. "O, Little Town" is a chilling version of the Christmas carol about a peaceful Bethlehem. Church bells chime out the familiar tune as Taylor intones the words; he breaks off the lines to imitate bomb sounds (boom, bam!). His rhythms hint that the little town in Palestine/Israel is being blown apart with increasing violence as the years pass. On "Peace," Ya Ya Kambaye's African instruments and vocals warble like warm summer rain, and Thacher Schmid's joyful violin also lightens the mood as the musicians accompany a heartfelt poem about a gentle friend.

—Julie Wichman

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