Paul Taylor

On the Horn

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It's an unwritten rule in smooth jazz that within every great sideman there is a solo artist itching to emerge, and saxman Paul Taylor -- who's added soulful spark and texture to Keiko Matsui's live band for several years -- makes the most of his first big moment alone on the horn. Keiko's producer and husband Kazu has helmed projects for a dashing handful of some of the genre's most exciting artists in recent years (most notably Porcupine), but he has never before elicited the volatile mixture of smoldering soul and passion he pulls out of Taylor. First and foremost, he directs Taylor's walloping soprano and alto sweeps through a slamming series of bold hip-hop layers, miraculously without letting the machinery dominate. Creamy ballads which will have everyone wondering why Kenny G sells so many more units are peppered throughout, but it's midtempo classics to be, like "Dream Come True," which combine all the sensuality and danceability this collection strives for. Keiko's wondrous piano solo on this track, however, may make you wish for more organic ideas and a little less of Derek Nakamoto's synth wizardry. Though Taylor has a knack for writing picture perfect melodies, he spices things up with covers of classics by Seal and Chic. Every year, there is a glut of new hot sax players on the scene, screaming out for airtime alongside more established acts. With any luck, the bouncy grandeur of Taylor will make him the guy future performers will be trying to push aside to make room for the next standard setter.

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