The American singer-songwriter-guitarist James Taylor is regarded as one of the most influential figures in the popular music of the last half-century. Still working, writing and touring, his repertoire continues to expand. The strength and diversity of his compositions have always attracted the world's finest session musicians to work with him, both in the studio and on the road, as a result of which many of his pieces have become benchmarks for players and public alike, constituting some of the finest and most enduring work in contemporary popular music. Were evidence needed of the regard in which fellow musicians hold Taylor, one need only look at the staggering list of his collaborators over the forty years since he was thrust into the spotlight as the first signing to the Beatles' Apple label.
None of these things were lost on British singer-guitarist Brian Dales when, in 2002, he first put together a band to interpret Taylor's work. Already familiar with much of the repertoire, Brian felt that the time was right to expand his solo performances in order to do justice to the music. The band he created, Sweet Baby James - in the knowledge of Taylor's management - made a great impression on audiences, and worked for a couple of years before the usual difficulties of holding together a large ensemble, in this case a seven-piece, prevailed.
Late in 2007, conversations with saxophonist Stuart Johnson and pianist Avril Greenhow Parker, with whom Brian has worked for many years on the function circuit and who both know the Taylor repertoire well, led to an exploratory rehearsal and some performances with a much more manageable trio; Brian on vocals and guitar, Avril on piano, synthesiser & backing vocals, and Stuart on reeds and covering all the extraneous parts - bass, harmonica, 'cello, glockenspiel and others - on wind synthesiser. Audience response has been very encouraging; 'We've been to many Taylor concerts over the years, and were a bit sceptical before we came along tonight, but we weren't disappointed' , was a typical reaction; 'What an impressively big, warm sound for a trio' another; 'Where are you playing next? We'll be there!' yet another. Read a recent review here
The James Taylor Project is not simply a tribute band, in the same way that the world's major orchestras are not simply Beethoven tribute bands. They exist to interpret the work, and to convey its spirit and worth. In the case of the James Taylor Project, Brian takes the core repertoire, the key arrangements, and with the trio gives a performance which touches on all of the influences evident in Taylor's work, from Americana to bossa nova via soul, blues and a sprinkling of jazz to finely-crafted pop, whilst paying special attention to interpretation of the lyrics, to which his voice is ideally suited. Amidst all this he somehow manages to navigate some fiendishly complex guitar accompaniments, for which his early classical training stands him in good stead.
The history of popular music counts James Taylor as one of the enduring greats. His music continues to reach vast and diverse audiences worldwide, but the opportunities for these audiences to see him in concert are sporadic. The chance to hear this work interpreted by one of Britain's most experienced singer-guitarists and a small but perfectly-formed band with a passion and respect for the music may not quite be the real thing, but it's close!
A typical James Taylor Project performance comprises two sets of around forty-five minutes, although this format is entirely flexible. Repertoire varies from show to show, but as a rule each set also includes a solo feature from Brian and another from the duo. These latter serve to give Brian's voice a brief rest whilst covering an instrumental piece by one of Taylor's principal collaborators, or another composition with a particular Taylor connection.
The James Taylor Project is ongoing. It is completely self-contained, travelling with an excellent PA, fully PAT-tested equipment and public liability insurance. As experienced professionals, the players appreciate the value of a no-fuss relationship with promoters; contractual negotiations are always carried out with simplicity, efficiency & courtesy, with no hidden clauses or silly demands. For details of fees and availability for 2011-12, contact the band via the email links below.
JTP update. The trio recorded a live DVD in concert in November 2008, still awaiting release. Further details and extracts of the final edits will be posted here as soon as they're available. In the meantime, read a recent review here.
The James Taylor Project.
A first lo-res still from the DVD, Jan 2009. Copyright.
Brian Dales, leader & musical director of The James Taylor Project, is a highly experienced singer and a fine guitarist who has spent many years refining his craft on the cabaret and show circuit. He carries an extensive and varied repertoire and is a sensitive and confident master of ceremonies. Brian works in a variety of contexts, currently as a solo artist, and as a freelance guitarist and backing vocalist, at present with How Sweet It Is, the highly successful and very busy UK-based touring revue, and an ongoing tour of the musical Hair. Brian is well known for his great interpretations of the work of James Taylor with the tribute band Sweet Baby James, and currently with its successor,The James Taylor Project , formed in late 2007 and subsequently receiving enthusiastic audience and promoter response - see above.
Brian began his career as a classical guitarist and over the last three decades has used this solid foundation to diversify into a wide range of work, starting out in folk clubs covering a typical contemporary singer-songwriter repertoire; Bob Dylan, Don McLean, Jackson Browne, Rickie Lee Jones, Van Morrison & James Taylor. In 1997, he studied in California with renowned vocal coach Thomas Appell, which had a profound and lasting effect on his own technique. Commercial work has included; lengthy summer seasons for several years on the Isle of Wight, and in Scarborough, Blackpool & Teignmouth; backing lookalike acts covering such artists as Freddie Mercury, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Abba, George Michael, Neil Diamond, Shirley Bassey and, inevitably, Elvis Presley. Brian is a poor sailor, with just one uncomfortable Baltic cruise likely to be his only maritime adventure. At present, much of his time is taken up with three things; solo work, with a repertoire including everything from Sinatra to REM to Bill Withers; How Sweet It Is, which has already visited scores of middle-scale and larger venues in the UK, has a very full diary, and is starting to work in continental Europe; and the European tour of Hair.
There's much more detail on Brian at his own website, www.briandales.co.uk
Contact. Please copy email correspondence to both of the following addresses to be sure of a prompt response;