After choosing the songs, Taylor writes out the musical charts from the original CDs -- including solos -- and then works out new arrangements at his computer. In the meantime, he gives copies of the original tunes to members of Strings Attached, so that they might become acquainted with the singer's style and vision. This is before they ever see new arrangements or rehearse.
Taylor listens to the original tunes, too, for he needs to know when it's best to shoot for understatement -- or when to gamble.
"The artists usually want to be comfortable. But I don't want them to be too comfortable," says Taylor. "I think that's how creativity happens, in the taking of risks. But at the same time, our job is to respect the integrity of the musicians and enhance what they do." A lot of times, that means walking a tightrope.
At rehearsal, Strings Attached and the guest artist gather at Taylor's house, where ideas and arrangements are discussed, refined and often tossed out. The confluence of vocabularies is fascinating. In December, Jimmy LaFave brought Jack Kerouac to the creative table, while Taylor and cellist Charles Prewitt ventured into the land of J.S. Bach.
"So. We're ending on a 5? Or are we ending on a 1?" said Prewitt at one point, pencil in hand, studying the sheet music on the music stand before him as the ensemble worked through its arrangement of LaFave's "When It Starts to Rain."