Billy Taylor used to hang out with Art Tatum as a young man, and that association with the legendary technique of the nearly blind pianist stamped Taylor forever.
For one thing, Taylor has a strong left hand, for Tatum a sine qua non. Last night at Charlie's, on several choruses of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," Taylor's left-hand skills were especially on display, for his right hand lay briefly idle in his lap. His left was so busy that listeners didn't realize at first that it was alone on the keyboard.
"Stella by Starlight" was one of several standards Taylor carried along with gentle swing, and with his own "You Tempt Me" he shifted into overdrive for a photo finish.
On Miles Davis' "All Blues," Taylor sustained for a minute or so a rumbling tremolo that conveyed the effect of a train roaring out of a tunnel. But the number was really bassist Victor Gaskin's, whose bowing was like a bass clarinet voicing the somber theme. Drummer Keith Copeland's subtle pulse was often more a felt than heard presence. The Haitian rhythms of his feature number proved him to be an imaginative soloist and a polished hand percussionist as well.
The trio stays through Sunday.