Shilts

All Grown Up

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Four years after leaving his longtime frontman gig with U.K. jazz groove sensations Down to the Bone -- and slightly more than a decade since he first branched out as a solo artist -- saxman Paul "Shilts" Weimar was still grooving strong as he declared to his fans (on the second release on his own Blanket Records) that he was All Grown Up. Perfectly in line with his super cool retro-soul vibe, he created an album cover concept that would have worked even better in the LP days. On the actual cover, he's removed his suit jacket but still has his vest and tie as he contemplates a glass of red wine. The insert photo has him in the same duds on a desert road, getting out of a red Ferrari whose license plates say: SHILTSY. One way to reflect maturity as an artist who can totally make it on his own is doing it with core bandmembers (most notably, his songwriting collaborator and versatile keyboardist Bill Steinway) rather than a cadre of friends who happen to be smooth jazz A-listers (as he had done on previous projects). Aiming for a more jazz-oriented and sophisticated, live-in-the-studio flavor, he also calls on guitarists Allen Hinds, Ross Bolton, and Gerey Johnson, bassist Jervonny Collier, keyboardist Jeff Leach, and bassist Phil Mulford. Jay Rowe, renowned for his touring and recording work with saxman Marion Meadows, co-wrote and plays keys on "We Don't Make the Rules," which sums up the charms of the set with a cool mix of old-school brass funk textures, Rowe's spirited acoustic piano, and Shilts' ever melodic and rhythmic sax lines. Stand-out instrumental tracks include the simmering gospel-soul tune "Since I Found You" and "Just Give It a Minute," whose easy thumping chill seems to time travel (in a fun way consistent with the title of Shilts' earlier album HeadBoppin') between the late '70s and today. The one R&B-flavored vocal tune, "Got Love" featuring Siedah Garrett, has an interesting history. The singer worked with Shilts in the '90s when he was with the Brand New Heavies. When he moved from the U.K. to California in the mid-2000s, he wrote a backing track and sent it to her to write lyrics and a melody. She recorded the vocal in 2005, but he thought an instrumental version would work better on HeadBoppin'. He created a new arrangement for the original vocal tune for All Grown Up -- an infectious collection that lives up to its name throughout.

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