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Paul Taylor: Creating a Signature

By Published: August 12, 2009
Since the 1980s, a number of saxophonists have come onto the scene as bandleaders. Several of them seem to be following the trail blazed by Kenny G, favoring the soprano on soft, romantic ballads. Taylor says it's important for artists to distinguish themselves in some way. "Everyone has their own distinctive tones," he says. "It comes down to just making my phrase. How do I say this? It's kind of personal—making your own signature. I use a lot of grace notes in my playing. Something I really can't describe. I recognize what makes my sound, and I emphasize those."

Paul Taylor"Groove Shack" is one of those tracks that revisits the 1960s/'70s soul instrumentals that people didn't call jazz. For Taylor, the song isn't symbolic of a specific time or place, but it does capture the concept of the overall recording. "We both [Taylor and Eastmond] kind of channeled some Junior Walker. We tried to get that chicken-fried, back-in-the-shack, party mood."

Some of that chicken frying can be heard in a grinding sound the tenor makes. It's not necessarily written into a song, but Taylor does get into it on playback. "I recall on that song, it's the growl. I think it's probably a little bit of both. It's one of the tricks in their bag that a saxophonist can have—especially on tenor. On 'Groove Shack,' since it's that kind of a piece, it's kind of a honky-tonk, balls-to-the-walls, really throaty kind of piece."

The ballad, "Remember the Love," is another song that has that old-school feel. Crooks' guitar has an Isley Brothers feel. "Exactly," Taylor says. "I'm glad you recognize that. That's what Rex said. A lot of these songs, I recorded the sax part, and Rex or Barry worked with the musicians. In the second or third session, Rex, said, 'Hey, Paul, check out 'Remember the Love now.' We're very proud of it."

There's a good bit of variance on the title song. All 10 tracks have a soul-jazz feel, but each has its own identity. While they all could break onto the radio scene, they don't sound like Taylor and the producers went out of their way to make a radio-friendly recording. "I don't want to have it sound contrived, like when you try to go for it too hard," Taylor says. "So each song kind of stands out. We just kind of keep it honest in the studio and having fun with it. After a while, you don't want to think about it too hard."

It's about making good music. "Exactly," Taylor says.

Putting Burnin' together didn't come without a hitch or two. Some copies of the album will have bonus tracks. One of those doesn't sound the way it was intended. Taylor says it happened when he was with Rideout in California. "I'm playing the tenor again, and so, we've already done several songs on the record with Rex. They were saying, 'We like the song, but go back and try something different on it.' So we tried it again. I got the horn out, and when Rex was getting my level in the control room, he noticed the sax wasn't sounding quite the same. I thought, 'Wow, that's strange.' He made the adjustments on the board, and we went ahead and redid the song.

"We're really proud of it. At the end of the earlier session, I was packing, getting ready to leave. I had an extra box of reeds, and put the box in the bell of the horn." Taylor pauses, laughing. "When I put the horn away after playing that song, the box of reeds fell out of the bell. The box fell out. I was kind of teed off, but it was actually very funny."

Taylor went home, not wanting to tell Rideout they'd have to record the song again. Two weeks later, he did tell him. "I said, 'Hey, Rex, I gotta confess something to you. The song we did called 'Weekend,' Rex, I'm so sorry, but I had a box of reeds in my horn.' He said, 'Oh, that's what it was.' We started busting, cracking up."

It's a fitting conclusion to the creation of a soul-stirring, smooth jazz record.

Selected discography:

Paul Taylor, Burnin' (Peak, 2009)
Paul Taylor, Ladies' Choice (Peak, 2007)

Paul Taylor, Nightlife (Peak, 2005)

Paul Taylor, Hypnotic (Peak, 2001)

Paul Taylor, Undercover (N-Coded Music, 2000)

Photo Credit

Damon Hereta

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