Paul Taylor--Burnin'

People often talk about hearing an artist as he or she has never been heard before. Well, truer words were never spoken when listening to this new project, Burnin’, from master saxman Paul Taylor. Here is Taylor in a new but no less electrifyingly appealing fashion. His use of the tenor sax on 9 of the 10 tracks, with a lot of retro or old school touch (think Junior Walker & The All Stars and other drivers and churners of that era), is a welcome and fresh diversion.

How this approach came about is humorously interesting. As Taylor puts it, “The focus on the tenor happened by very happy accident. I thought it would be cool to bring my tenor along with my soprano and alto to the sessions…When I got to the studio and opened up my cases, I saw that the soprano was damaged.” Now, a more unprepared, unimaginative, and rigid artist might have postponed the sessions and replaced the soprano. Taylor, being quite insightful and adventurous, decided to plow ahead and write, along with veteran producers/keyboardists Barry Eastmond and Rex Rideout, some of the gutsiest and tightest material Taylor has released to date.  

When you hear such tracks as “Groove Shack,” you just want to look for the nearest jukebox and see if a Junior Walker tune has been punched up. Yet, there’s still a very Paul Taylor signature on tunes like “Remember the Love,” full of sultry romance and charm. The funk element is very much present on this project, as well. “It’s Like That” is proof enough of that, although others here lend witness, as well.

Granted, I had to settle into Taylor’s new touch, having been so used to the seductive call of his alto and soprano saxes. I wondered if I could train my mind’s eye to seeing him perform tunes that I’d usually liken to Richard Elliot or any number of others who wear the tenor regularly. I wonder no more. This just confirms that this artist can adapt to any style, anywhere, without so much as the bat of an eye.

I’ve followed Taylor for much of his career since his early years with world class pianist/keyboardist Keiko Matsui to and beyond his Kazu Matsui-produced debut album, On The Horn. I’ve never been disappointed with the charismatic, melodic, and spot on approach Taylor always seems to bring to the studio and to smooth jazz in general. Burnin’ continues his tradition of excellence in a big way, this time with a creative little twist. -- Ronald Jackson

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