Paul Taylor: Ladies' Choice (2007)

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Paul Taylor: Ladies' Choice
There's a perception that smooth jazz is background music—a sound intended to be played at low volumes for work spaces. As one would expect of any competent musician, Paul Taylor defies that logic with Ladies' Choice. The saxophonist presents eleven upbeat tunes that, while fresh, are reminiscent of a time when danceable romantic tunes were the norm at nightclubs.

Taylor began playing the sax at age seven. His early efforts included a high school garage band—Mixed Company, which played a mix of Top 40, funk and Crusaders-type fusion. As his career developed, Taylor found himself working with Keiko Matsui, Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons, and he was part of the lineup for the Groovin' for Grover tour that paid tribute to the late Grover Washington Jr.

The title of Ladies' Choice is borrowed from the 1970s disco scene. Historically, it was customary for men to ask women to dance. At some point, the DJ would stop playing, announce that the next song would be "ladies' choice," encouraging women to choose the men they wanted to dance with. With a variable lineup of sidemen and guest vocalists: LaToya London, Regina Belle, Terry Dexter and Lauren Evans, Taylor, they recapture those days quite well, but in a way that keeps the music fresh and honest.

The title song sets the stage early. Paced by Freddie Washington's bass groove, Taylor gets the listener in a dancing mood right away, leading on the alto sax. London sings lead on the ballad, "I Want to Be Loved (By You)." Although one of the weaker songs on the album, her voice makes it worthwhile, reminding us why she received such rave reviews on American Idol. By contrast, "Here We Go" is one of the more enjoyable tracks, with Barry Eastmond on keyboards and percussion—who produced seven tracks and wrote or co-wrote eight—and this song is a stylish blend of laid-back jazz and R&B.

The lone cover song on Ladies' Choice is a tasteful rendering of the Average White Band's "A Love of Your Own," which features Evans as lead vocalist. With Dwayne "Smitty" Smith on bass, Michael White on drums and Lenny Castro on percussion, Taylor hangs in the background mostly, supporting Evans before taking over on a passionate soprano solo. The rhythm section is tight on this one.

With appearances by producer/keyboardist/programmer Rex Rideout and guitarists Darrell Crooks and Phil Hamilton, among others, Taylor adds another jewel to his musical treasure, which includes Nightlife (Peak, 2005), which hit the Top Five of Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Chart. It may be called Ladies' Choice, but this music is for everyone.

Track Listing: Ladies' Choice; I Want to Be Loved (By You); Here We Go; How Did You Know; Streamline; Long Distance Relationship; Summer's End; A Love of Your Own; Open Your Eyes; Overdrive; Point of View.

Personnel: Paul Taylor: alto sax (1-5, 8, 10-11), soprano sax (6-7, 9), vocoder (7); Barry Eastmond: keyboards (1-5, 7-9), percussion (1, 3, 7), drum programming (4, 9); Darrell Crooks: guitar (1-2, 6, 8, 10-11); Freddie Washington: bass (1); Michael White: drums (1, 7-8, 10-11); LaToya London: lead and background vocals (2); Melodie Eastmond: background vocals (2); George Fontanette: bass and drum programming (2); Phil Hamilton: guitars (3-5, 7); Reggie Hamilton: bass (3, 7); Ricky Lawson: drums (3); Regina Belle: lead and background vocals (4, 9); Terry Dexter: lead vocals (6); Rex Rideout: keyboards and programming (6, 8, 10-11); Lauren Evans: background vocals (6, 8), lead vocals (8); Dwayne "Smitty" Smith: bass (8, 10-11); Lenny Castro: percussion (8, 10-11); Lee Thornburg: flugelhorn (11).

Record Label: Peak Records

Style: Contemporary/Smooth

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