Story By:: G. H. HARDING
James Taylor

TAYLOR RETURNS --- Forty-five years after debuting on the Billboard 200 chart, James Taylor is set for his first No. 1 album. Industry prognosticators suggest the singer/songwriter’s new studio effort, Before This World (his first in thirteen years), could sell around 75,000 units in the week ending June 21. The album is his first studio set since 2002’s October Road.

The new Billboard 200’s Top 10 will be revealed on Wednesday, June 24.

Taylor has previously logged eleven Top 10 albums, including seven Top Five efforts. His highest charting set to date has been 1971’s Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon (Taylor’s third album), which then spent a month stalled in the No. 2 slot behind Carole King‘s break-out second solo album, Tapestry. (Taylor and King would later collaborate for the 2010 set Live at the Troubadour, which reached No. 4 in the album charts.)

We saw Taylor on NBC’s Today–with his current eleven-piece band, featuring our friend Steve Gadd—and thought he was great. Though we have tried to secure a copy of the album for review purposes from his new label, Concord Music (Joel Amsterdam and Phoebe Wilson) . . . it still hasn't arrived.

The 67-year-old Taylor sounded great, looked lean and mean, and—with an overflowing crowd there in the Today Show Plaza—was overall superb. He performed two songs off the new album, “Today Today Today” and “Shed a Little Light,” which is vintage Taylor. He also did “Your Smiling Face,” which the crowd loved.

Taylor’s reemergence, and clear success, presents an interesting dynamic. He’s an artist, writer, and terrifically underestimated live performer. Quite frankly, that’s not what seems to be in vogue right now. Perhaps the tide is turning? I, for one, certainly hope so.

Marcus Goldhaber

MOSTLY MARCUS --- Following a recent sold-out debut at Bar Thalia, Symphony Space's newest home for Jazz, acclaimed NYC vocalist-songwriter Marcus Goldhaber returns to launch Mostly Marcus, a Sunday-night Jazz Duo summer residency, in which Goldhaber will be backed by a top jazz guitarist only and joined each week by a different guest artist. The rotating group of jazz guitarists includes: Hendrik Helmer (Wyclef Jean, Carly Simon, Duncan Sheik); John Hart (Jimmy Smith, James Moody); Ron Affif (Al Martino, Roger Williams); and Sean Harkness (Eileen Ivers, Julie Budd).

Opening June 21 with guest vocalist Alexis Cole and continuing through August 30, Mostly Marcus is designed to underscore Goldhaber‘s intimate approach to “The Great American Songbook,” a mode of performance here that Jazz Weekly has called "lyrical and swingin'." Meanwhile, All About Jazz says that Goldhaber’s performances are delivered "like a plate full of comfort food!" As Jonathan Schwartz (WNYC) says, “he is filled with ideas!"

Show times for each engagement are 7:00 PM and 8:30 PM. Bar Thalia @ Symphony Space is located at 2537 Broadway (at 95th St.), New York City.

For additional information, call 646.597.7340 or go to www.barthalia.org.

Additionally, Goldhaber will be making his debut at “Broadway’s Supper Club,” the elegant 54 Below, where he’ll premiere a special show, “Free and Easy: Livin’ on Swing Street,” on Saturday, July 25.

Clint Eastwood

“SULLY” AND HANKS --- Clint Eastwood has found his “Sully.” Eastwood is negotiating with Tom Hanks to play Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who became an instant American hero in 2009 when he engineered a miraculous emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after a flock of geese hit the plane just after it took off from La Guardia Airport. His courage under fire saved the lives of all 155 people aboard the plane, who famously crowded the wings awaiting rescue.

When Eastwood recently declared his intention to make that film at Warner Bros — where his last American-hero pic, American Sniper, grossed $543.4M worldwide — many wondered whether there was anybody but Eastwood who should play “Sully,” the nickname by which the veteran pilot became known. Well, seriously, the only other guy would be Hanks, who, from Apollo 13 to Forrest Gump to Captain Phillips, has been Hollywood’s other go-to guy for hero turns.

When you think about it for a moment, this picture will indeed be an unbeatable combination! And I think Hanks would do a terrific job. I remember going in to see Captain Phillips a bit less enthusiastically than I would have preferred . . . and then it turned out that I loved it. Hanks did an incredible job!

And while we're on the subject, his performance in director Robert Zemekis’ picture Cast Away (2000) was equally superb.

Eastwood will direct the biopic from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, and it has been based on the book Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow.

CLOSING NOTES --- Wenner Media laid off twenty key people this week, including David Fricke at Rolling Stone. After a thunderous outroar, they hastily explained that David would continue . . . but in a freelance capacity. Fricke has been a fixture at the magazine for more than 20 years. PR pasha David Salidor said that when he worked at Good Times magazine in the ‘80s, his editors were Kurt Loder and Fricke. “Terminating Fricke is right up there with USA Today jettisoning Edna Gudnersen and the Village Voice laying off Michael Musto. Consumers bought those magazines because of the writers. But they get expensive, and with dwindling sales . . . it’s a tough call. Honestly, I miss them all. Without them, the magazines are totally different.”

As we predicted, Brian Williams is back; but this time, he’s been banished to MSBNC, NBC‘s bastard-stepchild. I don't know what the reaction will be; as I've said here before, he's damaged goods by now. His interview with good friend Matt Lauer this morning on Today, in my opinion, did little to change things--but it was a start. Lauer was admirably intense … and, Williams more than once, had a hard time answering his black box box-of errors. Several pundits in the last few days have suggested that Lauer was the worst person to get the first interview, being that they're friends and colleagues; but, kid-Matt did good. Again, I well remember spending some time with Williams at a post-show dinner—and boy, did he love the sound of his own voice. My advice to Mr. Williams: go easy, not sleazy, and try not to bleed because the sharks are in the tank . . . and they're already circling you, just waiting for that first red trickle of blood in the water . . .