Martin Taylor and Martin Simpson together at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight, the fourth date in their current tour, was a chance to catch two guitar masters from two very different styles on stage enjoying their music and sharing it with their audience.
Martin Taylor is regarded by so many people as one of the finest jazz guitarists in the world today, and Martin Simpson’s reputation as one of the finest acoustic and slide guitar players around always meant that the combination of these two fine musicians was going to be a special event. Both Martins are long-time friends and their combined tours are always a pleasure to catch up with as there is that warmth and humour between both men that, combined with their respect of each other’s talents and a love of music, makes the combination of both on stage always something special. Two fine guitarists, but one notable difference between them – Martin Simpson plays guitar and sings at the same time, Martin Taylor plays guitar, only adding occasional vocals if prompted.
The format of the show is a simple one, both Martins play together complementing one another’s very different styles, and each has his own solo performance time. Both men are outstanding musicians in their own right and I would happily go and see either in concert at any time; together though, there is always that element in the air of something unexpected about to happen musically between the two of them, some magical, musical spark.
Martin Simpson, as well as being recognised for his guitar skills, is also recognised as one of folk music’s finest contemporary writers and performers, and whether it is his own interpretation of older songs, or his own works, there is always one thing behind all of his music –“Truth in The Words”. That truth means there is also enormous power and at times vulnerability in his songs, and this was more than evident in this show as Martin paid tribute to his very recently deceased (only days ago) father-in-law, folk legend Roy Bailey. Martin Simpson is obviously dealing with all the emotions that we all too sadly know when a loved one is now gone, and somehow, tonight, those emotions allowed us as an audience to experience a little of the true power of music and words - their ability to reach deep inside us all and speak to our hearts and minds in a way that nothing else can.
Some powerful words in the music from Martin Simpson, but maybe none more so than the Robb Johnston song “More Than Enough” (please find this one on Youtube and listen to the lyrics). This song is of course one that Martin Simpson and Roy Bailey have performed together too.
Also, there was a wonderful performance of Heartbreak Hotel that for me outshines the Elvis Presley version on every front. Martin’s music is always about truth so, of course, original writer of this song Mae Boren Axton gets, as is only proper, full credit here (not as the co-credit to Elvis required for him to sing it states). This wonderful return to the blues based original song illustrates so perfectly the bond between folk music and blues music – truth and power in their words.
Martin Taylor is always a pleasure to watch and listen to, and beautiful performance of songs like “Two For the Road” and “Georgia on My Mind” played with such feeling and apparent effortless ease as always show that a true master of his instrument is on stage. As usual, Martin Taylor does love to play the “spot the song beneath the jazz improvisation” game at times, and The Carpenters’ “I Won’t Last A Day Without You” I think surprised a few people at this show.
Martin Taylor may be best known to many people as a jazz musician, but Martin (like Martin Simpson) can play in any style of music that he wants to, and the very Caribbean sounds of “Down At Cocomo's” was as good an example as any of that effortless ease of moving from style to style.
Martin Taylor and Martin Simpson were both so obviously enjoying each other’s company on stage here, and the company of their audience and different musical styles and genres flowed so easily from the two of them – classic jazz and blues, gospel to folk and so much in-between. It is always a pleasure to watch musicians at this level performing on whatever instrument they play, always a pleasure to watch and hear music taken to the next level of artistry.
Review by Tom King