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Paul Taylor: Nightlife

Woodrow Wilkins By

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It's easy to pigeonhole Paul Taylor into the class of sax-playing bandleaders that graduated from the Kenny G school of instrumental pop—capitalizing on the melodic soprano sax craze that has prevailed over the last two decades, in terms of radio play and record sales. Perhaps too easy.

Taylor has recorded a number of melodic, soprano sax-led songs over the years, including several with the Rippingtons. However, to presume this is all the man is about would be grossly unfair. For one thing, he also plays the alto sax and clearly belongs in the same class as players like Eric Marienthal, Jeff Kashiwa, and perhaps even David Sanborn. For another, Taylor brings in an element of funk that contradicts the popular image that sugary soprano leads epitomize the genre of smooth jazz.

Taylor brings all these elements together on his newest release, Nightlife, a blend of funky, groove-oriented music that could—and perhaps should—fit into playlists from several genres.

"The key to making a great album is finding the perfect balance every time between cool, straightforward melodies people can quickly latch on to and the desire to play edgier songs and procude cutting-edge tracks," Taylor says. "I wanted to get back in touch with all the things that made my last CD such a great experience, but also make the new one more upbeat and slightly tilted toward alto over soprano sax."

Mission accomplished. The album starts with a heavy dose of soulful funk with the opening title song, followed by "East Bay Bounce" and the super-funky "Around the Corner." Guest vocalist Maxi Priest joins Taylor's ensemble for a slick, reggae-inspired cover of Force MDs' "Tender Love." And while Nightlife makes extensive use of programming technology, it's not the cookie-cutter variety that serves as more of a distraction than a subtle background to the lead and solo instruments. In this case, the programs blend almost seamlessly into the overall soundscape.

Supported by such talents as bassist Alex Al, trombonist Nick Lane, and keyboardist Rex Rideout, Taylor offers a convincing display of musicianship that affirms for some—and reaffirms for others—that he deserves to be counted among the best contemporary/smooth jazz sax players.

Track Listing: Nightlife; East Bay Bounce; Around the Corner; Enjoy the Ride; Tender Love; Anything You Say; Candlelight; Don't Wait Up; After Hours; Things Left Unsaid; Silk 'N' Lace.

Personnel: Paul Taylor, alto sax, soprano sax, sax harmonies; guitars: Dwight Sills, "Jubu" Smith, Brian Monroney, Phil Hamilton; bass: Freddie Washington, Alex Al, Ron Jenkins and Alex Evans; drums/percussion: Michael White; drums: Ricky Lawson; trombone: Nick Lane and Ozzie Melendez; flugelhorn: Walt Fowler; trumpet and flugelhorn: Barry Danielian; keyboards and programming: Rex Rideout, Barry J. Eastmond and Dino Esposito; Maxi Priest, lead and background vocals on "Tender Love"; Sara Devine, background vocals on "Tender Love"; Lauren Evans, background vocals on "Anything You Say."

Title: Nightlife | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Peak Records


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