Jill Townsend Big Band's Legacy: The Music of Ross Taggart is a loving tribute

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      Jill Townsend Big Band
      Legacy: The Music of Ross Taggart (Cellar Live)

      Every other CD that comes this way is billed as a labour of love—and, given the grim economic realities of the modern music industry, that’s probably just about right. But love, as a tangible presence, is rarely as clearly felt as it is on this new CD, which glows almost from beginning to end.

      I’m qualifying that statement because Legacy’s two opening numbers, “Don’t Call Before 10” and “Light at the End of the Tunnel”, make for a deceptively low-key way to kick things off, being more cool and polite than emotionally fervid. But things pick up from there as the musicians warm to the task at hand—honouring the music and memory of the late saxophonist, pianist, and bandleader Ross Taggart. 

      Dozens, if not hundreds, of threads of connection run through this album. For one, Taggart played tenor sax in trombonist Jill Townsend’s band for more than a decade; for another, the first release on saxophonist Cory Weeds’s prolific Cellar Live label was a Taggart quartet date. A witty, somewhat larger-than-life presence, the musician has been widely missed since his death from renal cancer in 2013. 

      Here, though, the mourning stops and the celebration begins shortly after the last poignant chords of “Tunnel” fade into silence. “T.V. Lunch” packs boisterous bebop swagger and sets the tone for the rest of the disc. It’s not hard to imagine the musicians swapping Taggart stories between takes, and smiles have most definitely replaced tears by the time the assembled players swing into the paradoxically cheerful “B.B.’s Blue Blues”.

      For some, giving Taggart the last word—via his solo piano rendition of a tune he wrote for Townsend, “Apple Cider Vinegar”—might start the waterworks flowing again. Still, it feels good to hang out with Ross, and 18 of his best friends, for one last time.