Paul Taylor has long been amongst the cream of the crop when it comes to discussions regarding contemporary jazz saxophonists. He possesses a most distinctive and easily recognizable sound; with his tone and timbre pleasing his devoted followers for a protracted period of time. His first-rate offerings in the past have primarily concentrated on his lush and sensual soprano and alto sax play, with a bit of EWI (electronic wind instrument) mixed in. On his new release, Burnin’, Taylor proves that he is equally adept at casting his magical seductive spell with the tenor sax, which he proficiently utilizes on almost every single track. Burnin’ forwards the momentum he maintained on Ladies Choice, his previous chart topping CD on Peak Records, capturing some retro soul grooves updated with contemporary touches to create another superior and intensely rewarding recording.
Paul Taylor has again teamed with two of the top and most talented producers in the music industry, namely Barry Eastmond and Rex Rideout; ensuring that his previously gained pinnacle of success is sustained, if not in fact bettered. The brilliant pair who persist in their efforts to help inspire Taylor to tap into his heart and soul and deliver what his fans have come to demand and expect: fulfilling musical compositions of the highest quality imaginable. Put simply; together they make great songs with memorable melodies.
"Back in the Day" is just one example of a song with a most memorable melody. It’s sunshiny, feel-good vibe, with cheery background vocals gets the CD off to a soaring start. With its joyous theme and upbeat rhythm, it qualifies as a perfect "summer song." The second tune, a mid-tempo song entitled "Revival" has a retro-funk feel, and similar to "Back in the Day," contains flavoring background vocals. A marching bass line is integrated; but the spotlight remains on the masterful spirited tenor sax of Paul Taylor.
The character feel of Junior Walker’s classic "Shotgun" is present in "Groove Shack." The fixed beat of drummer Michael White provides a solid platform for Paul to lay his soulful sonic sax brickwork on top off, as he builds the wall higher and higher. It is highly infectious, peppered with Hammond Organ and bass guitar flourishes, and Taylor’s robust tenor work is sensational.
Past beautiful, sultry and romantic efforts of Paul Taylor on alto saxophone are recalled in "Remember the Love." He gorgeously imparts this slow dance tune, smoldering with passion, as he mines the depths of his emotion. Guitarist Darrell Crooks, who was so vital on a couple tracks on Ladies Choice, adds to the silky atmosphere as does keyboardist Rex Rideout. Crooks mirrors Taylor’s lead and ends the song with some nice sweetly searing tones. A simply beautiful effort contributed by all involved.
The title track, "Burnin’," will grasp a lot of radio airplay, and rightly so. The rhythm section of bassist Melvin Lee Davis and drummer Michael White are scorching hot. Paul Taylor adds to the flames with sweltering saxophone passages filled with hooks galore. Wah-wah effects guitar from Crooks, and feisty keyboards from Eastmond throw even more fuel onto the blazing bonfire.
On "Side Pocket," the contemporary jazz groove is canyon deep, and the entire group glimmers impressively. It’s followed by another true ensemble piece with every member of the band shining brightly that’s titled "It’s Like That." This gem combines a retro-soul funk vibe with a slightly Latin caress to provide a winning formula.
"Juke Joint" has enormously exuberant 70’s flavor, and if it doesn’t get your head boppin’ along in rhythm then you better check your pulse. You can envision the smiles on the faces of the band as they play this one. Comparable to a couple other songs included on this collection in the approach in which the background vocalists add to the catchiness and help put the melody inside your head to stay. The only non-original composition on the disc is a forceful remake of 70’s funk band War’s soulful "Me and Baby Brother," which invites favorable comparisons to Maceo Parker, as the affecting spirit is thick, sassy, and tangy.
Taylor ends Burnin’ strongly with another song featuring his signature sound, and co-authored by Barry Eastmond. It’s appropriately titled "So Fine." If you’re keeping score; it makes the final tally, six songs written by Taylor with Barry Eastmond, and three written by Taylor and Rex Rideout. Whatever the score, the true winner is the listener; with all ten songs being truly top-notch excellent efforts. I confess to being a longtime enthusiast of Paul Taylor and his art; but in my assessment Burnin’ is his strongest and most consistent work to date. With his past recordings ranking as some of the greatest in the genre, that statement speaks volumes. This project may even be considered a watershed CD, what with Taylor’s emergence as a tenor sax heavyweight. Mark my words, Burnin’ will convert the non-believers, as well as charm the faithful fans. Bravo!