Paul Taylor has just one question for his fans who have been Burnin’ for more since his last hit album in 2009: Are you ready for Prime Time?
The popular saxophonist sure is. A true contemporary urban jazz force of nature, Taylor has been on one of the most successful runs of his 15 year recording career, scoring his first #1 ever on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart with Ladies’ Choice (2007) and hitting #1 on the airplay charts with the title track from Burnin’. Fresh from kickin’ it up on tour these past few summers as part of the Gentlemen of the Night tours with fellow saxophonists Marion Meadows, Michael Lington and Warren Hill, Taylor is keeping things soulful, funky and innovative as ever on his sixth Peak Records album and debut release through new partnership with Eone Entertainment Group. Paul’s in Prime Time mode with emotionally powerful 10 song collection of instrumentals and vocals which finds him vibing with a mix of old and new (and very funky) musical friends.
For the first time since Nightlife (2005), the saxman is co-writing with Dino Esposito, one of the architects of the trademark Taylor sound who has been producing tracks for him since his 1997 hit Pleasure Seeker. Looking for a special breezy touch on the sensual ballad “Horizon,” Taylor called his longtime pal, acoustic guitarist and “vocalese” master Steve Oliver, to complement his lilting alto melody. It was a sweet payback of sorts, as Taylor played on Oliver’s breakthrough album First View in 1999. Technology played a key role on this track, as Oliver recorded his parts at his home studio in California’s Inland Empire and transferred them electronically to Esposito’s home studio in Simi Valley.
Complementing the seven tracks helmed by Esposito are four urban adult contemporary vocal cuts co-penned and produced by The Heavyweights, a hit production team led by vocalist Jamie Jones of the Grammy and American Music award winning R&B vocal group All-4-One, which released the album No Regrets on Peak Records in 2009. Since forming in 2003, The Heavyweights—which includes songwriter/producers Jack Kugell and Jason Penrock—have participated in recordings that have sold more than 28 million units.
“I treat each project as a separate entity, aiming to create the perfect sound, the right flow with the right collaborators to reflect where I am musically at the time,” says Taylor, whose other collaborators over the years include top R&B producers Rex Rideout and Barry J. Eastmond. “Dino’s one of the original guys who helped me get out there and establish my sound, and he brings a great combination of familiarity and exciting, progressive new ideas in the funky jazz vein.”
“My manager (and Peak Records label owner) Andi Howard is great about suggesting new people to work with, and it turns out The Heavyweights were an amazing fit for the part of me that loves R&B vocals. Jamie is a master on the melodic side and Jack has incredible studio chops. The key to the songs we chose to develop was diversity in the mix. Aside from having Jamie sing lead on ‘Can’t Nobody,’ it was also a pleasure to hear the great new vocalist they brought in, Andrea Anderson-Olson, who does ‘Space.’ "
Usually when an artist names a song after their significant other, it’s a slow, romantic ballad—but “Laronda,” named for Taylor’s wife, has Taylor doing his funky alto thing jamming over an upbeat, buoyant old school dance groove and soaring atmospheres. It’s all about having a blast, celebrating “love that has set me free.” The saxman says, “Funny thing about that tune. When The Heavyweights brought it in, it had a Spanish name ‘Querida,’ which means ‘Dear,’ and they told me they had originally written it first for someone else. Since it was already a dedication to someone, I thought it would be cool to personalize it for Laronda, try some different things with the sax and refashion it as a song that captures the way I feel about her. It’s fun and romantic but there’s nothing sappy about it!”
Prime Time gets down to business with three tracks driven by the classic Taylor/Esposito grooves and sonic touches. The lone soprano tune on the collection, the mid-tempo, seductive “Push To Start” is the perfect summery drive-time tune, with what Taylor calls a “quasi-cinematic British pop/One Republic influence.” Haunting ambient chill bubbles over into melodic yet gritty alto sax funk on “Moment of Truth,” a tune featuring dynamic horn texturing that may remind some listeners of one of Taylor’s favorite all-time saxophonists, David Sanborn. “Don’t Wanna Let You Go” is all about lilting and cool late night seduction, yet its drum groove might press the limit of your car’s subwoofers. Fans of the classic All-4-One vocal style will find “Can’t Nobody” all at once fresh and familiar, as Taylor’s alto soars along with Jamie Jones’ powerhouse vocal on the first track on the album produced by The Heavyweights.
Taylor visualizes a “Horizon” that takes his breath away on the track where he and Esposito work with Steve Oliver, blending the alto sax with a lush acoustic guitar harmony and dreamy, caressing wordless vocals. After “Laronda,” Taylor finds a different mode of loving expression on the late night elegant charm of “Say No More.” Taylor finds some cool “Space” to put his sax harmony lines on the highly textured urban crossover vocal track featuring Andrea Olson; penned by The Heavyweights, the song is essentially a female empowerment tune in which the woman tells the man, “you want space, here it is!” Taylor, Jones and Kugell collaborated on the high energy, grooving jazz title track, which is followed by a unique, silky cover of Kings of Leon’s massive pop hit “Use Somebody”; the saxman in essence turns an edgy Southern rocker into a tender ballad. The Japanese version of Prime Time includes the hypnotic, soaring closing track “Away Too Long,” which will also be available as a digital download.
Originally from Denver, Paul Taylor has lived and worked in the always thriving musical environment of Las Vegas since graduating as a music performance major from UNLV. He began playing sax at age seven and discovered his true calling while playing in a local high school garage band called Mixed Company, which played Top 40, funk and Crusader-styled fusion. Aiming to build his resume beyond the many dues-paying Vegas lounge gigs that marked his early professional life, he commuted often to Los Angeles and hooked up for the first time in the late 80s with Esposito.
Taylor played one of Esposito’s sessions at Jeff Lorber's home studio; a few years later, in 1994, the keyboardist remembered Taylor and asked him to play with him at the Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival. Another popular keyboard player, Keiko Matsui, and her producer/husband Kazu liked Taylor’s charismatic performance and soon offered him an audition with their band. He recorded and toured with the Matsuis for two years (appearing on Sapphire and Dream Walk), and Kazu Matsui eventually produced the saxman’s debut On The Horn, which spawned the #1 radio hit “Till We Meet Again.”
Contemporary jazz stardom came naturally for Taylor, whose mix of funk and silk, groove heavy chops on soprano, alto and tenor, dynamic stage presence and catchy melodies were a natural fit for the genre. The #1 title track of Pleasure Seeker became one of Radio & Records most played genre cuts of the year. Although Taylor has since been one of the genre's most popular live attractions as a solo artist, he eagerly accepted Russ Freeman’s invitation to tour with The Rippingtons as a special guest artist in 2000—the year he released his third album Undercover--after Jeff Kashiwa left the group.
After making his Peak debut with 2001’s Hypnotic, Taylor’s career reached a fever pitch in 2004 when “Steppin’ Out,” the title track from his 2003 Top Ten Billboard Contemporary Jazz album, became Radio & Records’ third biggest genre airplay cut of the year. He also toured as a featured performer with the all-star “Groovin’ For Grover” lineup (including Lorber, Richard Elliot and Gerald Albright) and performed and made his acting debut on the legendary ABC soap opera “One Life To Live.” The incredible momentum continued with his 2005 release Nightlife, which also hit the Top Five of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart, and he continued touring with the genre’s best over the next few years, participating in (fellow Peak Records artist) Norman Brown’s Summer Storm tours in 2006 and 2008. He also shared numerous tour dates with Regina Belle.
This summer, Taylor will once again be participating in the Gentlemen of the Night all-star tour and will be doing select dates with Steve Oliver. “Going into every project, I always bring good ideas to the table,” says Taylor, “but the exciting part is never knowing exactly how it’s going to end up. My favorite part of making the new album was having the chance to work with Dino again, collaborating with Steve in a way that wouldn’t have been possible earlier in my career, and getting my urban groove vocal thing going with Jamie and The Heavyweights. It’s a cool juxtaposition of the wonderfully familiar and the brand new.”
“I’ve always loved the positivity of the expression Prime Time, the idea of optimal conditions and timing, and knew this was the right title to reflect my feelings about the project overall. Doing the photo shoot for the CD cover and insert at this beautiful, very modern house in the hills outside of Las Vegas added a classy touch to the concept of this truly being my Prime Time.”
Paul Taylor has been one of the most popular and innovative saxophonists and performers over the past decade and a half. But all that was simply a prelude to now, his Prime Time. Are you ready?