Paul Taylor - Countdown (2016)

Paul Taylor
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The saxophonist stands as the biggest star in contemporary jazz’s firmament. That status carries with it more than a few blessings. Sax players make up a good number of the genre’s biggest stars, and Paul Taylor ranks as one of contemporary jazz’s household names. If you include Countdown, his newest project, Taylor has released 10 albums and is also an in demand collaborator who has played with The Rippingtons and R&B acts such as Regina Belle.

Being a smooth jazz saxophonist has a few burdens. For one, there’s the pressure to include a cover of some chart topping R&B song and arrange it in a manner that has all the creativity of elevator music. There’s also the tendency of sax based contemporary jazz to sound transparently and overly programmed. Fortunately, Taylor manages to avoid both pitfalls on Countdown.

The saxophonist stands as the biggest star in contemporary jazz’s firmament. That status carries with it more than a few blessings. Sax players make up a good number of the genre’s biggest stars, and Paul Taylor ranks as one of contemporary jazz’s household names. If you include Countdown, his newest project, Taylor has released 10 albums and is also an in demand collaborator who has played with The Rippingtons and R&B acts such as Regina Belle.

Being a smooth jazz saxophonist has a few burdens. For one, there’s the pressure to include a cover of some chart topping R&B song and arrange it in a manner that has all the creativity of elevator music. There’s also the tendency of sax based contemporary jazz to sound transparently and overly programmed. Fortunately, Taylor manages to avoid both pitfalls on Countdown.

In addition to jazz, Taylor draws on influences from sources ranging from EDM to pop and R&B. However, Countdown benefits from a generous infusion of funk that starts with the mid-groove of the opening title track to the propulsive bass and electric keyboard that drives forward “Crossroads,” Countdown’s final track. Taylor pairs his melodic and creative sax work with some delicate Spanish guitar finger work on the Latin tinged ballad “Polaris,” which is one of several highlight tracks on this largely instrumental project.

The arrangements on Countdown’s 10 tracks provide musical foundation for Taylor to soar creatively. His improvisations display him as an artist who can quickly devise creative concepts to mesh with the dance inspired funk of “Knocking At Your Door,” as well as the percussive Mediterranean shuffle of “Told Ya So.”  

With Countdown, Taylor has crafted an album that will defy the best efforts to remain relegated to background music. In fact, a couple of these tracks could are ready made for radio formats other than smooth jazz, if only R&B  and adult urban contemporary stations could fit the occasional instrumental on their playlist. Ten albums into his recording career, Paul Taylor shows no sign of slowing down. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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