Paul Taylor

Burnin'

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Smooth jazz saxophonist Paul Taylor leaned a bit more than usual toward pop on his 2007 album Ladies' Choice, using the title concept to bring in a bevy of female vocalists, and he was rewarded with his first number-one ranking on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart. He pulls back a little from that stance on the follow-up, Burnin', employing fewer vocals, but otherwise the changes are modest from what has been a winning commercial formula. Longtime producers Barry Eastmond and Rex Rideout, who are expected to construct the instrumental beds over which Taylor solos, have taken a somewhat retrospective tone on some of the tracks, signaling their intentions by calling the first song "Back in the Day" and the second "Revival." This sort of music always sounds a bit like '70s soul with the vocals stripped off and a saxophone added, but Eastmond and Rideout go even more in that direction here, de-emphasizing the usual synth programming in favor of more real musicians. Taylor, for his part, changes instruments, opting for a tenor saxophone most of the time, in place of his usual soprano and alto, and the deeper, slightly harsher sound leads him to recall (just a little bit) a predecessor like Junior Walker on "Groove Shack." Still, the title comes off as an exaggeration. Taylor's playing, and the music itself, are not "burnin'"; "smoldering" would be more like it.

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