The Philippe Saisse Trio

The Body and Soul Sessions

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By 2006, the smooth jazz genre's obsession with cover songs was reaching a somewhat ridiculous fever pitch, but the success of recordings like Kirk Whalum's The Babyface Songbook and Rick Braun's Yours Truly proved that listeners loved them. With the intensely likeable, high-spirited, super swinging Body and Soul Sessions, the French born funk-jazz keyboardist whips up an all-cover collection even the biggest skeptic can enjoy. This is due not only to the lively, imaginative arrangements, but also the long awaited opportunity to hear Saisse -- who often favors big swirls of sound, bold sonic textures, and wild. trippy effects -- strip down and play melodies and improvisations straightforwardly on piano and Fender Rhodes. There are a few subtle synth washes here and there -- most notably, on a graceful cover of Bill Withers' "Lovely Day," but these are in perfect service to his gorgeous piano runs and the cool rhythms of acoustic bassist David Finck and drummer Scooter Warner. The song selection is pretty fascinating as well, with a gorgeous rendition of the title track being the only true jazz standard. Otherwise, the trio is balancing pure, playful '60s and '70s pop and soul (the ultra-retro "Do It Again," "September," "Lady Madonna," "We're All Alone") with inspired oddities like "Harley Davidson" (giving a joyous Ramsey Lewis vibe to a clapalong composed by Frenchman Serge Gainsbourg) and "The Dolphin." In his liner notes, vibes master Gary Burton laments the fact that Saisse once upon a time chose piano over vibes as his primary instrument -- to the delight of thousands of fans worldwide. This new trio format finally gives Saisse a chance to just do his thing without the burden of creating a sonic circus around it.

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