Since their first experiment with jazz singer Beth Ullman two years ago, Taylor and his ensemble (which currently features Steve Zirkel on bass and trumpet, Jason McKenzie on tabla and drums and Charles Prewitt on cello) have collaborated with more than a dozen Austin vocalists. Each concert brings with it its own musical challenge to forge a union with the guest artist's specific musical vocabulary. Some pairings feel like weddings; others feel like lightning storms.

"I'll do almost anything for the challenge of it, to test my arranging ability," says Taylor. "I see it as an exercise: Can I connect with something that's further away from my style than anything I know -- and still make it work?"

Will Taylor's story begins, like so many Austin music stories, at the Armadillo World Headquarters -- the late great concert hall, beer garden and artists' haven that both nurtured and reflected the open-minded spirit of its patrons. Taylor was raised in Austin, and his parents loved music. So it only followed that young Will spent many nights at the Armadillo, listening to music, in the company of his parents.

The Armadillo was all about inclusiveness, for it was the home of rock and country, ballet and jazz, folk, blues and the spoken word. There were no boundaries. Form didn't matter as much as passion. As a boy, Taylor wandered about in this landscape without thinking about it.

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