Mick Taylor has always seemed a bit too unassuming to be a real guitar hero. There's rarely been any sense of the showoff in his work, none of the lightning licks or grandstanding guitar effects expected of a fretboard virtuoso. Instead, his playing has been simple, powerful and to the point, making the music, rather than the musician, the focus of each solo.
Maybe it's just modesty, but Taylor, who'll be brining his new band to the East Side Thursday, almost shrugs when asked what makes his playing so crisp and effective. "I really don't know what it is," he says. "I just make up what I play. It just comes into my mind and I play it."
However it comes about, Taylor's ability to grind out lean, electrifying rock guitar lines has made him a much sought-after player. Certainly that was the case in 1969, when the Rolling Stones hired him away from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers to replace founding member Brian Jones.
"There was nothing really too contrived or calculated about he arrangements. We would simply play the way we felt, a bit like an old blues band. Put it this way -- he gave me a lot of freedom to play the way I wanted to play, and that's probably why some of the tunes on the live album ended up sounding the way they do."
Since then, though, the 38-year-old guitarist confesses, "I haven't done very much at all." Which is why he's on tour now. "I'd just been sitting around doing nothing for too long. I wanted to get out on the road and start playing."
As such, his current band -- featuring drummer Colin Allen, who also played on the Dylan tour, keyboardist David Cohen and bassist-vocalist Roger Troy -- is a rather impromptu affair. "This band ws put together very quickly," Taylor says. "I'm using Colin because I've played with him before and know what he plays like. But the bass player and the keyboard player, I just heard them on a tape, and only met them for the first time in New York about six days ago."
Still, he's not too worried about the reception he'll get. "I don't know what they're expecting, really," he says of his fans. "It won't be a show of breathtaking original songs. But there'll be plenty of good guitar playing.