It’s 1987, I’m a young mod and not so cool that I remember to turn up late for my first ever gig at one of London’s most euro-trashy nightclubs, The Limelight. So whilst a group of about five of us are ushered into the James Taylor Quartet’s first London gig, where we get to hang out (for hang out read see at the other side of the room) with Absolute Beginners star Patsy Kensit. All the hipper members of the jazz world are locked outside dealing with a typically 80s velvet rope situation. We are treated to the most incongruous gig that the venue probably ever saw, as the Quartet propel themselves through the 20 or so minutes of music that make up their first mini album, then follow it with the same set. It was electrifying.
The James Taylor Quartet had been accidentally launched from the ashes of Medway garage heroes the Prisoners. Following their split in 1986 James had set off to Sweden to live with his girlfriend – but before he left he had used some already booked studio time to record a couple of tracks in a groovy organ style. About six months later, the Prisoners manager, Eddie Piller, offered to buy these masters from James and release them as a 45.
The two tracks, Blow Up and One Mint Julep, were released on the Re-Elect The President label in April 1987 and the James Taylor Quartet were off and running. The record was championed by John Peel, and climbed the indie charts, effectively launching Piller’s Acid Jazz label (though the term wouldn’t be used on a record for another year). A band was quickly put together featuring James’ brother David on guitar, Prisoners’ bassist Allan Crockford on bass and Simon Howard on drums. They quickly recorded the “Misssion: Impossible” mini album and followed it with the full-length “Money Spyder’” LP creating their own unique punk jazz mix – filmic and totally compelling - for a growing group of fans, who caught one of their plentiful live shows.
Within a year of the first recordings the James Taylor Quartet had moved onto a deal at major label Polydor, and found themselves caught up in the first flowering of the Acid Jazz movement, with what was possibly the defining new record of 1987 Theme From Starsky And Hutch. Since then, they have played the world over, scoring Top 40 hits, having their music in big Hollywood movies, and filling concert halls with enthusiastic fans. A JTQ show is always thrilling, always exciting. These recordings show the birth of that feeling.
By Dean Rudland