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Stardust Memories 

A Richmonder helps create the definitive Nat King Cole box set.

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"That music was always around," he recalls, "probably since I was in the womb. I've always loved it and had a fascination with it."

Taylor, 27, has no musical background himself—although he did try to learn saxophone "for about ten minutes." His family moved to Richmond when he was 14, and he attended Douglas Freeman High School before enrolling at VCU.

In 2004, he learned that a small German record label, Bear Family Records, was putting together an extensive Nat King Cole box set featuring the popular singer's complete recordings for Capitol Records. Taylor contacted the label to offer them a rare photograph from an old trumpet player friend who played on an original Cole session. He didn't realize it then, but the e-mail would have a domino effect.

"From there, they just kept sending me more stuff [concerning the Cole box]," he says. "I can't quite say why they trusted me, but they did."

Pretty soon, Taylor's duties included editing a 200-page essay by Will Friedwald (author of well-known books on Sinatra and Bessie Smith), putting together captions for numerous photos, and perhaps the most challenging role of all, going through tape comparisons of the original Cole material with later versions.

"The problem was, after Cole died, they overdubbed a bunch of stuff to make it more contemporary," he explains. "It was a challenge to find the originals. Many of them had never been heard before."

The project became a labor of love. Taylor took a semester off, partly so he could concentrate on the lengthy, detail-oriented work. He also took a trip to San Francisco to locate the names of former session players in an old musicians' union log, which led to countless hours of phone interviews.

"These were musicians who have largely been anonymous for 50 years but they played on some of the most famous recordings of all-time," he says. "I think they got a kick out of being remembered."

"Now, the massive Cole box set ("Stardust: The Complete Recordings of 1955 - 1959") is finished and available for around $280 dollars. It contains 11 CDs (two of them in Spanish) plus a fancy coffee table book filled with impressive color photos.

Taylor wound up logging so much work that he was given a co-producer credit; he has also already finished work on a follow-up volume covering the years from 1960 to 1964.

Richard Weize, owner of Bear Family Records, says that he was "very pleased"

with Taylor's work on the project—without offering much more of an explanation on why he was chosen.

"He is a very thorough expert on Nat King Cole," Weize says. "I don't think that anybody could have done a better job."

The box set isn't available in many stores, Taylor notes, because it is so expensive. But he adds that various specialty distributors, such as CD Wolf Music from Texas and Amazon are carrying it (one can also check the label's website at www.bear-family.de).

"Scholarship is lacking for Cole for whatever reason," Taylor adds. "A lot of people know him as a cheesy balladeer and that really doesn't do his musical talent justice. He was a great jazz pianist first. He died young but still had a very diverse career."

For now, Taylor doesn't know exactly what career awaits him — but he'll have plenty of glimmering oldies for the ride." S



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