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Slippery Sam... Back in spring 1996, Sam Taylor was brimming with big ideas and grand intentions. The onetime producer/manager/ guru to Katy's holy-rock troika -- King's X, Galactic Cowboys and Atomic Opera -- had suddenly materialized after a lengthy seclusion brought on by career burnout, divorce and health problems.
But that spring, he seemed back on track, rejuvenated and more opinionated than ever. The performance-shy Taylor even mustered the nerve to step out from behind his studio console and play in front of a live audience; his eclectic jazz fusion trio, Moons of Jupiter, quickly found a home at Ovations. Taylor was also touting a new pet project, the local Sonnier Brothers Band, whose demo he produced and was shopping to major labels.
Then, almost as quickly as he resurfaced, Taylor beat an unexplained retreat. "I came out a little too early," he says now. "I guess I needed to spend a little more time in the insane asylum.... That's a joke, of course."
He skipped town for the West Coast, presumably to rally industry support for the Sonniers and find work for himself. L.A. didn't suit him. "I got really disillusioned there," he says. "I hated it."
Taylor's four months there confirmed what he probably knew all along: that he belongs in Texas. After he returned home in 1997, his luck began to change. He met a Fort Worth woman, got married and settled in Ennis, just south of Dallas. Around that time, he produced a CD for Atlanta-based Christian rockers Third Day; it was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Rock/Gospel Album category. Taylor was back in business on his own terms. Soon enough, there were Sam sightings in both Dallas and Houston.
Late last year, Taylor made good on Moons of Jupiter's considerable promise, rounding up band mates Ray Dillard (percussion) and Max Dyer (cello, fretless bass) to record Compositions for the Moons of Jupiter, Volume One: Callisto. The intimate, small-ensemble format provides a vehicle for Taylor's flighty excursions into jazz, gospel, folk, ragtime and classical, but it doesn't betray his sturdy compositions or the trio's precise, understated playing. Reportedly at the urging of Dillard and Dyer, the CD was billed as a Sam Taylor solo effort. Even so, both musicians will join him for Compositions' unveiling party Friday at Ovations.
Taylor has also re-established ties with the Sonnier Brothers, who are being courted by Atlantic Records. "I'm [their] mentor right now," he laughs. "If I'm going to [manage] again, it's going to take something incredibly special and wonderful. And these guys just might be it."
Have a comment, tip, compliment or beef? E-mail Hobart Rowland at Hobart_Rowland@houstonpress.com.