Paul Taylor - Tenacity

Paul Taylor
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A certain amount of discomfort always accompanies any attempt to compare an artist’s new work with a previous project. It’s an artist’s desire that each album be judged separately and on its own merits, and for the most part the focus should stay on the latest project. However, the previous work can’t be ignored, and that is especially true if the prior work is interesting or compelling.

A certain amount of discomfort always accompanies any attempt to compare an artist’s new work with a previous project. It’s an artist’s desire that each album be judged separately and on its own merits, and for the most part the focus should stay on the latest project. However, the previous work can’t be ignored, and that is especially true if the prior work is interesting or compelling.

Prime Time, the 2011 album by contemporary jazz saxophonist Paul Taylor was a solid album that contained its share of auditory bliss. Prime Time derived its main virtue from Taylor’s ability strike the balance with his jazz improvisation and instrumental communication with enough R&B and hip-hop to appeal to a more pop orientated album.  The R&B cut “Space” showcased how Taylor got down, and that track would have earned Prime Time a recommendation if it had been the project’s only such moment. The call and response between Taylor and vocalist Andrea Olson showcases one of the strengths of Taylor’s saxophone playing – his acute sense of melody and creativity.

Paul Taylor has gone to more of a smooth jazz route on Tenacity, which makes the album an example of that genre’s strong points and shortcomings. Taylor can move between the pop and fusion-y aspects of contemporary jazz because he is such a melodic and creative improviser. That comes through most clearly on Tenacity’s slower tempo tunes.  Taylor handles nearly all of the solos heard on Tenacity, and way of playing jazz is more fluid on slower tempo tracks.

Tenacity is an instrumental album largely driven by Taylor’s saxophone playing, even though guest instrumentalists include luminaries such as Jeff Lorber. And while Taylor’s playing is as melodic and creative as ever, the album is most compelling on slower tracks such as “Wicked Games” and “Luxe.” “Wicked Games,” a remake of The Weeknd’s R&B tune, shows this most clearly. The arrangement is sparse, featuring most prominently keyboards and percussion. This minimalist set up provides Taylor with a platform to showcase his ability to use his saxophone as a way to mimic the human voice while also taking full creative advantage of being largely free of the lyrics. 

Tenacity’s up-tempo cuts could benefit from more give and take between Taylor and the other players, a roster that includes Jeff Lorber. The best moments on those faster tracks come on a track such as “Spur of the Moment,” where Taylor trades improvised riffs with his guitarist.

An immensely talented artist like Paul Taylor is always pulled in different directions by the audiences of contemporary jazz. His albums have often beamed through his love of R&B and even hip-hop, providing an energy occasionally missing in contemporary jazz records, But even when, as on Tenacity, he moves in a somewhat safer direction, he still provides smooth jazz fans plenty to like. Moderately Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 

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