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  • Jonathan Widran

PAUL TAYLOR, And Now This

With Paul Taylor, one of contemporary urban jazz’s primary hitmakers, it’s all about those sensual onstage moves (his female fans especially can’t get enough of!), the incredible hair, those uber-infectious melodies and grooves, and those up to the minute sonic textures. Paul’s enduring presence, sense of connection and success in the genre begs the question – how does the multi-talented saxophonist stay so timeless, fresh and hipster (personally and musically) even after over 25 years since his debut On the Horn?


One of his secrets is always having his ears attuned to the happening sounds in other genres – and in recent years, that means checking out playlists, paying attention to retail in store tracks and becoming a mad “Shazammer,” seeking out info (via the Shazam app) on every tune that lights his senses and may possibly spark his inspiration.

Beyond their spirited sonic textures and atmospheres, his songs (groovers and ballads, hits and album cuts) on any sax he plays are most notable for their joyful exuberance and emotional uplift, And Now This - his latest Peak Records collection and first under the label’s distribution with BFD: The Orchard – definitely follows in that tradition, starting with the freewheeling, drive-time light funk of the title track (featuring Brian Mulroney’s sweetly jangling guitar) and the buoyant soul-jazz energy of the “weekend’s here, let’s celebrate” flow of “Friday@5.”


Yet Taylor and his longtime collaborator Dino Esposito (on board with his adventurous collaborations and productions since the beginning of the saxophonist’s solo journey) come from a different emotional place on these tunes, emerging from a few years of major emotional upheaval in Taylor’s personal life topped with a year of COVID shutdowns and cancelled performances.


Some of the gems on And Now This, like the gentle, moody and sultry soprano closer “Good Night” find him in a reflective space. For the most part, however, he’s all about pushing forward, trying to muscle through the tough times and put things back together, finding dynamic musical ways to express the reality that, in his words, “we’re coming out of the pandemic, this is what I’ve been creating, we’re kicking it back into high gear and are more open-minded in our approach to music than ever.”

The saxman’s optimistic spirit animates many of the song titles and the uplifting vibes each creates, from the urban exotica and hypno-cool “The Face of You” and the dreamy, super-sexy “Epic Dream” to the snazzy bubbling sizzle of “Seize the Day,” the classic old school Chicago style shuffling of “One Step Closer” and the whimsical romance “Find A Way.” And from the beginning, Taylor has always assured us that, as on the album's hard-hitting, wildly horn textured lead single, he always gets "Straight to the Point."


As great as those are, on this album, for sheer “great to be alive, let’s move on” attitude, nothing tops Taylor and Esposito’s ultra-infectious re-imagining of “Ride It,” Regard’s global 2019 hit remix of Jay Sean’s 2008 #1 UK R&B hit that started as a viral sensation on TikTok. With these beats, Taylor’s sly, bouncy sax and All-4-One’s Jamie Jones’ vocals, it rolls like a brisk, invigorating mantra telling us to ride out life’s challenges and move full steam ahead to a world of possibilities, like, as Taylor says, “all this happened…and now this!”