Back to the Crib!: Taylor returns for 3rd Thursday jazz series

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Drummer Thomas Taylor Jr. will lead a group of musicians in performances for Arts of the Albemarle's Third Thursday Jazz series both Thursday and Friday nights this week. Taylor, who grew up in Elizabeth City and is now a world-touring musician as well as adjunct jazz instructor, will give two free “Back to the Crib!” concerts at AoA. The first is Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The second is Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.


By Cindy Beamon

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Elizabeth City music lovers will have a chance to be part of a live CD recording this week during two jazz concerts on Thursday and Friday.

Drummer Thomas Taylor is coming back to perform a second time at the Third Thursday Jazz series and bringing a new group to join him.

“We want to bring the energy and excitement that you find at a lively club in a big city to Elizabeth City,” Taylor said in a recent telephone interview.

Taylor grew up in Elizabeth City and is now a world-touring musician and adjunct jazz instructor at University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina Central University in Durham. He has rounded up musicians from Washington, D.C., New York, and North Carolina for his “Back to the Crib!” performances.

“There will be world-class musicians and artists sharing the stage with me over two nights,” Taylor said.

Concerts, free to the public, are scheduled for Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Maguire Theatre at Arts of the Albemarle, 516 E. Main Street and Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the same location.

Taylor said the shorter concert on Thursday will include about seven to eight original songs. The show on Friday will include some overlap but will add more originals to the mix.

Some of Taylor’s original pieces were drawn from memories of growing up in Elizabeth City. His new song “Blue Crabs With a Side of Yock” was inspired by visits to Cole’s Sandwich Shop on the waterfront. Taylor loved eating yock, a unique noodle dish that he believes was introduced by military travelers to the area.

Taylor said he is still experimenting with the song’s sound but has a type of hybrid drum beat in mind — possibly a mix of Latin, Calypso and reggae.

He also plans to perform “Trinkaloe Blues,” a popular song from last year’s concert that hails back to his old neighborhood off U.S. Highway 17, not far from The Whistling Pines. The song has a slow, 3/4 time beat with a gospel feel that is reminiscent of his past.

Taylor said his invitation last year to play at the Third Thursday Jazz concert gave him the idea for the two concerts and CD recording.

Taylor applied for and won a grant from the Wake County Arts Council that helped bring the artists to Elizabeth City and pay for the recording session. He will be accepting pre-sale orders for the CD and selling T-shirts and other items at the concert to also help cover costs. The Third Thursday Jazz series is underwritten by the Elizabeth City Foundation.

Taylor said getting that financial backing was key to making the project happen.

“It’s challenging to get everyone together to play, especially with these musicians,” he said.

The group includes:

* Trumpet player Brandon Lee, now living in New York City, who performs with the Grammy-winning Christian McBride Big Band.

* Saxophone player Annalise Stalls, one of Taylor’s students at UNC-G who received a master’s degree in jazz studies from NC Central.

* Pianist Chuckey Robinson, another of Taylor’s undergraduate students that earned a master’s in music. Stalls and Robinson are “two students I worked with who have grown into great musicians,” said Taylor.

* Bassist Herman Burney, originally from Winston-Salem who now resides in Washington D.C. “He has worked with some of the greatest artists in jazz,” including Marcus Roberts and Monty Alexander, noted Taylor. Besides being a bassist, Burney is an engineer who used to play gigs with Taylor in Wilmington and up and down the East Coast.

Taylor said he has played with each artist in the group although this will be their first performance together.

Taylor has enlisted Wells Gordon, former instructor and sound engineer at Elizabeth City State University, to produce the CD.

Taylor said he also has lined up some guest artists who will add more excitement to the performances.

He has invited his younger sister Jacinta “Tootie” Dillard, a well-known gospel singer in Elizabeth City, to perform an Irving Berlin arrangement of “What’ll I Do.” Taylor said he chose that song because his sister sang it when she was in elementary school, and Taylor remembered being “blown away about how good she sounded.”

Taylor said the performance will be a rare chance for audiences to see the siblings on stage together.

“The funny thing is that me playing with my sister is one thing that I have done the least,” he said, noting that she followed a gospel path and he played jazz.

Taylor also plans to mix a little hip hop into jazz with a guest performance by one of his former students. The show will include other guest artists, but Taylor said he wants to keep them a secret until the performance.