Mark Taylor Quartet: A four-part fusion of friendship and music
Mark Taylor and Gary Fukushima play Aug. 15 at Tula's as the Mark Taylor Quartet.
Special to The Seattle Times
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Mark Taylor Quartet8:30 p.m. today, Tula's Restaurant and Nightclub, 2214 Second Ave., Seattle; $15 (206-443-4221 or www.tulas.com).
Jazz musicians — and, more broadly, boys — bond over predictable things, so the collaboration between pianist Gary Fukushima and saxophonist Mark Taylor started with a question that went something like this:
"Hey Mark, you want to watch the Sonics game with me?"
About 15 years after they met as music students at the University of Washington, Taylor and Fukushima, both products of the area's extraordinary high-school jazz programs, have just recorded their first album together as the Mark Taylor Quartet. The group, fresh out of the studio, will perform three sets tonight at Tula's with bassist Jeff Johnson and Byron Vannoy on drums.
Although Taylor wrote most of the songs, all four contributed compositions to the yet-untitled album (due out this spring from Origin Records). The musicians have overlapping histories with one another: Johnson and Vannoy are regulars in Taylor's trio; Fukushima, who now resides in Los Angeles, played a longtime Monday-night gig with Johnson at the Broadway Grill on Capitol Hill years ago. Taylor and Fukushima, who were also roommates in college, bonded over basketball and Derrick McKey but went their separate ways after the UW to pursue graduate degrees.
Fukushima left to attend CalArts, the interdisciplinary arts school in Valencia, Calif.; Taylor left to attend the Manhattan School of Music. Fukushima, 35, stayed in Southern California because his Honolulu-born wife, a researcher at the Japanese American National Museum, preferred the sunny climate, and because the opportunities to play, teach and learn abounded there.
In New York, Taylor studied closely with Dick Oatts, earning not just his master's degree but a regular spot in the front row of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the house band that plays Monday nights at the famous Greenwich Village club.
In 2000 he returned to Seattle, where his versatility, experience and New York pedigree made him the easy first call for hiring a sax player. He's backed up dozens of national acts and is a member of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, a sort of local, all-star big band.
"It's easier for me here to play consistently, with a consistent group of musicians," said Taylor, 36. "The drawback is kind of the same thing. It's a smaller pond and it's easy to seem omnipresent and run out of places to play."
Taylor has to teach in order to make ends meet in Seattle, giving private instruction in his University District home. Most of his students attend Washington or Eckstein middle schools or Roosevelt High, the jazz powerhouse that Taylor attended and now lives about 12 blocks from. Fukushima went to Kentridge High, whose jazz band was led then by Paul Harshmann (currently the director of the Shorewood High band, another jazz powerhouse).
Taylor, and perhaps someday soon Fukushima, are among a group of local musicians — Thomas Marriott and Matt Jorgensen are others — who got their early education in the city's public-school jazz programs, moved to New York to refine it and returned as they approached or reached their 30s to settle down and have babies. In each case, the relative ease of life here and the lure of home trumped the singular, creative climate of New York.
Friendship as much as musicianship will pull together the music tonight at Tula's. The straight-ahead set will also feature some free-form improvisation.
"We're very interactive," said Fukushima. "It's a very responsive group and we play with a lot of looseness, but in a good way."
Hugo Kugiya: email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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