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. Ladies Choice from smooth sax superstar Paul Taylor is his fourth CD on Peak Records, his seventh in total and without doubt his most soulful ever. Starting with the concept of blending six of the most accessible instrumental smooth jazz cuts you will find anywhere with tracks featuring guest performances from four of the best female R & B singers around, this is a collection that has everything right about it. In addition, for the third album in a row, Taylor has turned to Rex Rideout and Barry J. Eastmond to variously add their legendary writing, production and performing skills for an end product that is almost indescribably good. Rideout is best known for his collaborations with Boney James, Larry Carlton and Will Downing among others while Eastmond has worked with everyone from Britney Spears to Al Jarreau, Phil Perry to Freddie Jackson and Anita Baker to Jonathan Butler. Taylor was so enthused by the excitement that each of them brought to his 2003 project Steppin Out that he brought them back for the 2005 Nightlife and now, with Ladies Choice, the partnership are redefining the boundaries of sumptuous ‘in the pocket’ urban jazz.
Paul Taylor has a penchant for vibrant up-tempo, uplifting contemporary jazz and the Eastmond produced title track is a superb example of it. Melodic and entirely radio ready it’s in the exquisite company of the wonderful ‘Here We Go’ that also has Eastmond’s magic touch all over it. In similar vein and every bit as good is the Taylor Rideout collaboration ‘Point Of View’ and when Taylor again hooks up with Eastmond for ‘Streamline’ they deliver what can only be described as a mid tempo stunner. ‘Overdrive’ is rich, soulful and just as strong while Taylor’s sensitive playing coupled with Barry Eastmond’s inventive production makes the evocative ‘Summers End’ a thing of real beauty.
These instrumentals are good enough to grace any album but when spliced as they are here with five exceptionally smooth R & B duets the overall quality is ratcheted to new heights. The complex ‘Long Distance Relationship’ featuring Terry Dexter is produced by the redoubtable Rex Rideout. He also plays keyboards and with Taylor slipping into a mellow mood the result is a fine example of fresh urban jazz. LaToya London takes the vocal lead on the sultry romantic ballad ‘I Want To Be Loved (By You)’. Her interplay with Taylor is breathtaking yet even better is the outstanding ‘How Did You Know’. This Eastmond produced number blends Taylor’s smoking alto sax with the sensual vocals of Regina Belle and, with a hook that is down right addictive, is without question one of the highlights of the entire album. Belle is back to tug at the heartstrings with the luxuriant ‘Open Your Eyes’ that she co-writes with Eastmond. Guaranteed to send the listener into a soulful haze its difficult to imagine anything better yet Taylor tops it with his picture perfect interpretation of the Average White Bands ‘A Love Of Your Own’. With Rideouts delicious retro keyboards, vocals from Lauren Evans that are at soul factor ten and sax from Taylor that sends shivers down the spine this incredibly soulful smoker is as good as anything you will hear either this year or next.
Ladies Choice from Paul Taylor is an absolute joy. Go out and buy it now.Posted by Denis Poole at June 24, 2007 12:06 PM