The James Taylor Quartet (or JTQ) are a British four-piece jazz funk band, who have become renowned for their live performances. They were formed in 1987 by Hammond organ player James Taylor following the break-up of his former band The Prisoners in the wake of Stiff Records' bankruptcy. The current line-up is James Taylor (Hammond organ), Chris Montague (guitar), Andrew McKinney (bass) and Adam Betts (drums), although recordings and live performances usually feature a horn section comprising John Willmott (tenor sax/flute) and Nick Smart (trumpet), and also vocalist Yvonne Yanney.
Film theme beginnings:
The James Taylor Quartet's first single, "Blow-Up" (a funked-up version of Herbie Hancock's main theme from the seminal 1960s film of the same name), was released in 1987 on the Re Elect The President label, which would later become the Acid Jazz label. The track was championed by the NME and John Peel, appearing in Peel's Festive Fifty chart for 1987. The band's debut album, Mission Impossible was released the following year 1986 and predominantly comprised covers of 1960s film themes such as "Alfie", "Mrs. Robinson" and "Goldfinger" in a rough, up-tempo, almost punk-like style, that was primarily focussed on Taylor's Hammond organ playing. Their second album, The Money Spyder (1987), was the soundtrack to an imaginary spy film, applying the band's distinctive style to Taylor's own compositions.
While promoting these albums The James Taylor Quartet developed a strong reputation as a live band, that remains to this day. The live set focuses on accessible rhythm driven music, that some classify as having elements of modern dance music, despite including a lot of improvised solos. During this period a contract with a major record led to them playing to ever increasing audiences. The band also recorded their signature tune "The Theme from Starsky and Hutch" during this period. This led to the release of the live album Absolute - JTQ Live in 1991, which attempted to capture the experience of the band in concert (even though it was recorded 'live' in the studio, the audience cheering being overdubbed later).
The emergence of acid jazz:
In the early 1990s the band changed direction and released a string of song-based albums to appeal to the then fashionable Soul and Acid Jazz scene in the UK. They featured vocalists such as Rose Windross of Soul II Soul, Alison Limerick and Noel McKoy. McKoy became a permanent member of the band for part of this period. The single "Love the Life" reached the Top 40 and the accompanying album Supernatural Feeling (1993) reached the top 30 in the UK charts. The next album In the Hand of the Inevitable (1995), featuring Alison Limerick as guest vocalist on three songs, saw a return to the Acid Jazz label, where it remains the label's biggest selling album.
The return to funk roots:
Since then the James Taylor Quartet have returned to their original style of instrumental Hammond-led jazz funk workouts on albums, that have showcased the band's instrumental talents. Cover versions such as "Whole Lotta Love", "Dirty Harry" and "Jesus Christ Superstar"' are still recorded in the same spirit as the band's debut "Blow-Up" single, but the albums are mainly original compositions. Live gigs regularly feature a vocalist and showcase songs from the soul period of the band. They received a Music of Black Origin nomination for their second live album Whole Lotta Live (1998).
Collaborations and other projects:
The James Taylor Quartet produced a bona-fide film theme of their own, when they contributed to the soundtrack of the first Austin Powers film. As well as their own recordings, James Taylor and members of the quartet have collaborated with Tom Jones on the duets album Reload and featured on records by The Wonder Stuff, Manic Street Preachers, The Pogues, Kingmaker and U2. They were also the house band on Gaby Roslin's short-lived Channel 4 chat show.
In the late 1990s, James Taylor began composing and recording library music for the Bruton Music company. A series of releases were made available for use by the media industry in TV advertisements, programmes, films etc. As this material is not available for sale to the general public it is sought after by completist, diehard fans.
The James Taylor Quartet have also released three albums under the name New Jersey Kings. These are similar in style to the core funky Hammond sound of JTQ, but have tended to be recorded live in the studio resulting in a more natural yet raw sound.
Some performances during 2005 included an augmented horn section and have been promoted as the James Taylor Funk Orchestra. During 2005 Nigel Price (guitar) replaced David Taylor.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license