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Philippe Saisse Trio – On the Level!

Oct. 12, 2017

Exploding on the scene once again to add another star to his illustrious musical career, the well-versed and sophisticated French keyboardist/composer/producer Philippe Saisse seduces with his new Philippe Saisse Trio project called On the Level!, a brilliantly eclectic blend of C-jazz, splashes of fusion, glimpses of island exoticism, big band horns, soul, funk, and that in-the-pocket vibe he carries around with him like his ID. It’s all here, proving that, yes, this is one consummate and artful artist.

While the group is called the Philippe Saisse Trio, there are actually four extraordinary artists here, and Saisse calls it a “trio plus one,” fittingly and cleverly so. The band consists of keyboardist Saisse, drummer Skoota Warner, bassist David Finck, and vocalist/percussionist Gumbi Ortiz — all masters and professionals with whom to be reckoned on a large scale.

Everything here is loaded. From the in-the-pocket funky lead and title track to the exotically entrancing Portuguese charmer “Custe O Que Custar” (in English “Whatever It Takes”) featuring the sultry vocals of Vanessa Falabella to the snappy mid-tempo groove of “Star of My Life” featuring one of my favorite vocalists — Count Basic’s Kelli Sae — to the finger-poppin’ “Blue Rondo” that combines funk and quality jazz in a way that has marked the Saisse brand.
There is also a clean and marvelous cover of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” (remember him?) featuring soulful vocalist Larry Braggs who kicks the emotional engines into full throttle.

Also joining the band as a guest is fellow Frenchman guitarist Marc Antoine who offers his talents on the cool and funky (as in salty and sweet) “And So but Then” and the melodic “Marienbad.”

No doubt about, Saisse & Co. remain at the top of their game, delivering quality in a fashion that is undeniably regal. Get a taste of this one. – Ronald Jackson