Whether he’s grooving onstage or laying down his latest batch of sensuous and funky tracks in the studio, there’s no better adjective to describe the effect Paul Taylor has on his legions of urban jazz fans worldwide than the title of his latest and fifth Peak Records CD, Burnin’.
With Burnin', Taylor follows the spectacular success of his 2007 disc Ladies’ Choice - the saxman’s first ever #1 (and #1 debut) on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart - with the most powerful and robust musical statement of his career. Burnin’ is an explosive set of decidedly retro and old school soul influences, which reunites the saxman for the fourth time with veteran R&B/jazz hit makers Barry Eastmond (Al Jarreau, Peabo Bryson, Jonathan Butler, Anita Baker) and Rex Rideout (Richard Elliot, Gerald Albright, Boney James, Najee). Pushing his artistic envelope as never before, Taylor stretches beyond his usual soprano and alto comfort zone and plays lead melody on nine of the ten tracks on tenor sax for the very first time.
“The focus on the tenor happened by very happy accident,” Taylor says. “I thought it would be cool to bring my tenor along with my soprano and alto to the sessions which kicked off the project. When I got to the studio and opened up my cases, I saw that the soprano was damaged. It made sense to use both alto and tenor to start writing, and I really started liking the way the lower tones of the tenor sounded. One of Barry’s strengths in jazz is producing the tenor, so we just kept rolling with it. It’s got a gutsier sound and as things turned out, lent itself to the retro ‘70s soul sounds that naturally emerged from our writing and recording sessions. I always think back to that Junior Walker ‘Shotgun’ blast and this was just my time to go in this direction.”
The clever Eastmond to Rideout to Eastmond track-to-track flow on Burnin’ essentially echoes the way Taylor has switched off on his previous collaborations with the producers, which include 2003’s Steppin’ Out and 2005’s Nightlife. Casual listeners might be having such a blast swaying and grooving that they may not notice the switch off. Another reason for this is the consistency of Taylor’s rhythm section under both producers--all the tracks feature Darrell Crooks on guitar and Michael White on drums; Melvin Lee Davis plays bass on seven tracks, while Ronnie Garrett handles it on three others.