Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. It was Sting who sung about an Englishman in New York but it would seem that, in smooth jazz terms, there are also quite a few in Los Angeles. Paul ‘Shilts’ Weimar is the latest to follow in the footsteps of Peter White and Chris Standring who, among others, have journeyed from England to California to seek and ultimately find smooth jazz stardom. Although he has only been resident in the LA area since 2004 Shilts is by no means new to the scene. He is in fact the face of the live incarnation of the band Down To The Bone (DTTB), an association that now extends back nine years and when I recently caught up with him at his home studio he took a break from working on new material to talk about the exciting turns that his career has recently taken.
Of course Shilts now has a major hit on his hands. ‘Look What's Happened’ is the first radio single from his CD HeadBoppin and currently 26th most played on smooth jazz radio in the USA. I asked him how the single came to be chosen from a selection that includes nine tracks that are either written or co-written by him. “When you are that close to a project”, he explained, “it can be difficult. Some of those tunes have been with me for as long as five years and not unnaturally I feel that all of them are great. That’s the cool thing about the new relationship I have with ARTizen Music Group. They have huge expertise in this genre. Sure they asked me my opinion and there is no doubt that other tracks on the album will in time make it to radio but I am very comfortable with the calls that ARTizen are making and its paid off with a hit.”
HeadBoppin is Shilts debut album on ARTizen although he previously released ‘See What Happens’ on Higher Octave in 2001. I wondered what, for him, the differences were this time around. “My first solo recording was made as a tie in to the work I was doing with DTTB” he told me. “The title says it all as in part we put it out there to gauge the reaction. It was an experiment but at the time I was still living in England and not around to promote it. This time everything is different. I was on the road playing with Jeff Lorber's band when out of the blue I got a call. It was from Rick Braun at ARTizen. Our paths had crossed on the tour circuit and he explained to me that my name had come up as someone who would fit very well with the focused way in which ARTizen was seeking to selectively extend its roster of artists.”
The project developed from there and the result is not only HeadBoppin but a working relationship with Braun that has seen them co-produce the album, for Rick Braun to appear on six of the tracks and for the two of them to tour together throughout this summer. In fact the tour schedule, made up of solo gigs, DTTB commitments and appearances with Rick Braun, looks quite hectic. I asked Shilts how he was managing to find the right balance and if he anticipated leveraging the interest of his long time DTTB fans for his solo performances. “Really, its all working out great” he explained. “Dates have fallen into place and I’m looking forward to testing out audience reaction when I get to the east coast in August. What I really hope is that the smooth jazz fans who have found my music through the new single will combine with DTTB regulars. That should produce quite an atmosphere.”
In the immediate future Shilts intends to continue to develop his live shows and has a new band that he has brought together for the purpose. Although he does admit to missing English beer and fish and chips he has no regrets about the switch that he and his family have made. “It’s about opportunities,” he confirmed. “Back home there are world class musicians who struggle to find work and to pay their bills. Here the market is opening up. It’s a place where if you work hard and pursue your dreams then the rewards will follow.”
Living the dream Shilts certainly is. In those sun drenched environs of L.A., and by coupling his enormous talent with the real feeling that he has for his music, he is sure to do well.Posted by Denis Poole at July 27, 2006 7:17 PM