Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Up until now the music of high octane sax player Shilts has, in the most part, been characterized by the big funky sound of Down To The Bone. His long association with the band has resulted in numerous tours, six DTTB albums and the platform from which to launch his own solo career. His 2001 debut See What Happens and the 2006 follow up Head Boppin were both generously populated with examples of the immensely forceful sound for which DTTB is famous but now things are set to change. His latest CD, Jigsaw Life, that hit record stores across the USA on July 22, is his first for the rapidly emerging nuGroove label and, although traces of his funk roots linger, this choice gathering of ten original compositions shows a new and diverse side to his considerable talents. Shilts produces, writes or co-writes throughout and additionally calls upon some of the best musicians around to collaborate with him. Bill Steinway, Randy Jacobs and Nate Phillips all lend a hand and the fact that Shilts has previously shared the DTTB stage with both Steinway and Jacobs simply adds to the cohesion of the entire collection.
Shilts (aka Paul Weimer) hails from London, England and has been playing saxophone since his early teens. At the age of 15 he was asked to join the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Great Britain and while with them gained experience by supporting such great jazz stars as Nancy Wilson, Buddy Greco, Rosemary Clooney, George Shearing and Mel Torme.
A professional by the age of 16, Paul was soon working in nightclubs and backing the likes of Rose Royce, The Temptations, Four Tops, and The Drifters. Refreshed from a travel spree that saw him work in Hong Kong, the Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean he firmly established himself on the London session scene where he recorded with artists that included David Bowie, Jimmy Paige, Bill Wyman and Lulu. He hooked up with UK pop band Breathe who went on to have a sequence of top 10 hits in the USA but Shilts never lost sight of his love for jazz. He co-formed System X with five other like-minded London session musicians and this different exposure led to him being noticed for his soulful, funky saxophone style. He joined British Acid Jazz group The Brand New Heavies in 1994 and stayed with them for six years. In 1995 he took time out to tour with chart toppers Jamiroquai but it was during his time with the Heavies that Shilts met keyboard player Neil Cowley. That in turn led to an introduction to Chris J Morgans at Internal Bass and Stuart Wade, who was then and is now, the creative force behind Down To The Bone. Chris and Stuart asked Paul to form and front the live incarnation of DTTB and the rest, as they say, is history.
Jigsaw Life opens with the mellow(ish) ‘Piece By Piece’. Shilts originally composed the tune for Rick Braun and Richard Elliot but it was never recorded and here its ‘in the pocket’ smooth jazz vibe immediately shows a different side to the ‘in your face Shilts’ that fans of DTTB will recall. That said Shilts has not entirely dispensed with the funk. The tight, funky yet always in control ‘Back On The Hudson’ is the first single to go radio and glistens with wonderful keys from Bill Steinway and equally memorable ‘slap bass’ from Nate Philips. ‘Ain’t It Marvelous’ also evokes some of Shilts more animated DTTB moments whereas the down and dirty funk driven groove of ‘Outside The Box’ is truly something to savor. ‘A Promise Is A Promise’ is characterized by its lilting rhythms and warm melody whilst Shilts own measured backing vocals serve to embellish the soulfully turned down charm of ‘Smile For Me’.
Shilts drives the jazzy yet sophisticated ‘Too Close To The Edge’ to a catchy horn driven crescendo while ‘Time Gentlemen Please’ finds him weaving more of his intricately jazzy patterns. Sandwiched between Randy Jacobs Latin tinged acoustic opening and his equally memorable electric guitar finale ‘Broken Silence’ is blessed with the haunting tones of a string quartet, outstanding Hammond B3 from Steinway and Shilts own intoxicatingly restful playing. As delightful as its different this one is a real gem yet even better, and Secret Garden selection for best track on the album, is ‘Listen Up’. With a vibe to die for and more great keys from Bill Steinway this is a terrific example of up to the minute smooth jazz.
Jigsaw Life is a superb measure of just how much Shilts has developed as a writer, producer and performer. His growing maturity is breathtaking and his new found diversity is sure to add to his already significant following. No doubt about it, the new look Shilts rocks!Posted by Denis Poole at August 9, 2008 3:30 PM