Paul Taylor grooves his way to Thornton Winery

Published on April 1st, 2021

By Jim Dail

When jazz great Paul Taylor reflects on the keys to his career, he goes right to the beginning. Sure, there were the musical influences he heard growing up in Denver, but it was all about his parents wanting him active – in anything! 

“My parents started my brother and I in a youth band and getting us into youth activities, and we were in marching band, concert band and I kept playing through junior high and then in high school,” he said.

That was the Denver Youth Musicians, and he started playing sax because the director though he was the right height for it. That was fine with him.

It has certainly led to a stellar career, which he will showcase with Peter White and Euge Groove on Sunday, June 5 at Thornton Winery as part of the 2016 Champagne Jazz Concert Series.

“There was that rich Denver background of jazz artists, and there was a good station for it and I started to listen to guys like Grover Washington Jr. and guys like that,” he said. “The R&B sound of the time was strong, so I got into it. What topped it off was when I was in the local band Mixed Company. It was our own band and we did jazz and R&B and we were pretty much semi-pro doing clubs even though I was under 18. So, that capsulized it for me.”

It was a typical starting band set-up, with mostly other people’s material at first.

“We did 99 percent covers, and we were playing the stuff we heard around us, loving it and wanting to emulate it,” he said. “It was great getting that little success, jamming and reacting to people. Fortunately, I got a scholarship to college, and I kept my eye on the prize and working on my own material. I wanted to be like my idols and kept working on it.”

From there it was paying his dues with such acts as Jeff Lorber, Keiko Matsui and The Rippingtons.

“In college, I met producer Dino Esposito, and in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s he realized his dream and was a pop star for a few years,” he said. “That inspired me because I knew someone who did it themselves. When you see someone in your circle do it, you think ‘hey, if they can do it, I can do it. Before that, family members and friends kept pushing me.”

So, after paying his dues for 15 years, he finally got his record deal, with Esposito producing. Now, he’s had numerous hits, successful tours and been able to perform with the cream of the crop of jazz artists, a group that he is certainly a part of.

His last record, “Tenacity,” was just the latest in a long line of hits and featured Lorber as well, one of many collaborations with other musicians that can be found on his recordings. It is also the time frame for a new record, and Taylor is taking it all in stride.

“Yes, I am working on a new project as we speak that will be ready, hopefully, in early fall,” he said. “We are still in midst of making the record and I think I am best when I go open slate, and we work and find a direction in the midst of doing it. Right now there is not a real theme.

But there is a definite feeling that is emerging.

“It’s too early to tell completely, but it’s definitely ‘groovacious’ and colorful and rich-sounding,” he said. “That’s how it is feeling right now.”

As for collaborations, that’s not in the planning yet, but that could change.

“It’s a sometimes thing with collaborations,” he said. “You have a wish list, but mostly I want to get new songs and after the fact maybe another person. Sometimes beforehand you may know because you’ve worked it on it for years and then I want xyz to play on it. And you think, ‘This so-and-so person would be cool to have their talent on the record.’”

Of course, this show at Thornton features collaboration with guitarist White and saxman Groove, both favorites in jazz circles.

“It’s a thing of joy to be on stage with those guys, people you respect and admire,” he said. “Euge and I have played festivals together and they have a big monster jam, but the first time working with him literally was collaborating with him playing some of mine and me playing some of his and, of course, Peter sits in on my songs and there is just this great collaboration.”

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