Smooth jazz has been somewhat of an enigma over the last 15 years, as well as the poster child for a number of negative comments. It reigns supreme as a style of music cloned by Kenny G; yet in many ways, and depending upon the artist, smooth jazz does have its merits from time to time. One instrument that has taken the brunt of negativity has been the soprano saxophone, due in part to the success of Kenny G. Because of his popularity as an instrumentalist, numerous saxophone players have come and gone in an attempt to emulate him. As one looks across the jazzscape, there is very little to distinguish from one sax' player to the other; however, there is one exception to that lack of confidence.
One soprano saxophonist in particular who has always managed to rise above the frey consistently has been Paul Taylor. With four albums to his credit and a resume that reads like a "Who's Who" in the world of smooth jazz, soul, pop and R&B, Paul is in a category unto himself. He has consistently ranked and charted as one of the finest saxophone players around today, and he continues to amaze the most staunchest of critics. Since 1995, Taylor has recorded hit after hit, which has helped to improve the viability of smooth jazz as a major player in the world of music. Recently, Paul released his 5th CD for Peak Records entitled 'Steppin' Out', where he has delved into a number of external influences with a degree of heralded success. This time out, Paul's R&B style has slightly less of an edge than has been heard on previous releases; however, the patented Paul Taylor sound remains distinctively and descriptively intact. Moreover, his association with Peak Records seems to allow him a greater degree of flexibility than with other labels.
'Steppin' Out' can best be described by Taylor himself. He believes, rightfully so: 'Steppin' Out' is not as aggressive as previous recordings; in fact, it has more of an old-school moody pop-oriented flavor, even on the identifiable dance tunes." What is just as significant is the incorporation of the electronic vocorder, live drums and horns to make the release even more distinctive. Previous efforts have utilized the touch of electronic instrumentation and percussive techniques to fill in the blanks, whereas this time out, originality is the goal Paul has sought. This CD is lively and coalesces well with the thought-provoking dynamics Paul Taylor has intentionally infused into 'Steppin' Out.' The effort features a myriad of funky rhythms, melodic grooves and strategically placed vocals for listeners to become totally engrossed in Paul's adventure into sound. The vocorder adds a unique touch to some of the tracks that are heard.
With Paul Taylor's distinctive sound, anyone within earshot of his music will never be bored. He has one of the most recognizable instrumental voices in smooth jazz. He has consistently been popular since leaving Keiko Matsui in 1994. Smooth jazz may not be legitimate in the eyes of traditionalists, but Paul Taylor's offerings do not fit into that category alone. In the whole scheme of things, his music can best be described as contemporary jazz in some respects. Paul exhibits some of the finest musicianship around today. His charisma during live performances makes him a crowd pleaser. Compared to some of the other musicians who have come onto the scene during the last 15 years, Paul Taylor may well be a musician who will stand the test of endurance. If four successful releases and his latest CD 'Steppin' Out' are any indication, Paul's influence on smooth contemporary jazz will continue to be a positive one.