Holding musical concerts for worthy causes isn’t a new concept. Oftentimes, as with George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, magical melodious moments result. Such was the case on a hot August Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nevada. The inimitable contemporary jazz saxophonist Paul Taylor, along with the assist of some other great local Vegas musicians, provided an evening of music that was indeed both magical and truly memorable.
Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Fund, founded in 2003, and it’s highly laudable Visa Card Program, was the beneficiary of 100 percent of the monetary proceeds from ticket sales. This Program provides credit cards in $20 increments to victims of fires and disasters, to help them get through the troubling times until they can contact an assisting Public Agency. Numerous selfless contributors were responsible for the evening, including all the marvelous musicians. The venue for the event, the Access Showroom inside the beautiful Aliante Station Hotel/Casino, was donated for the evening by Station Casinos, Inc. and its gracious C.E.O., Frank J. Fertitta, III. The evening’s soundman deserves special mention also, because he took full advantage of the room’s incredible sound. Promotion was provided by local smooth jazz radio station 105.7 The Oasis. Former Chief Fireman David L. Williams briefly appeared to thank everyone involved for making this concert a reality.
The Access Showroom for this evening was set up in a nightclub type configuration, which added to the intimate setting. Plenty of small tables were positioned off the front of the large stage. Also, an abundance of plush seating booths were situated throughout the showroom in addition to multiple rows of comfortable seats available with a direct frontal stage view. A well stocked and fashionable bar in the rear of the room completed the scene.
Before the lights went down, I spotted and spoke briefly with professional photographer Cary Gillaspie of Scenicjazz.com, an ardent jazz aficionado who has kindly allowed me the opportunity to utilize his concert photographs in the past. His love of music is translated into award-winning shots time after time giving the statement "a picture is worth a thousand words" true authenticity.
The band took the stage and launched into "Burnin’," the title track of Paul Taylor’s sensational new CD. They jammed for a couple minutes before Paul made his appearance onstage to applause and cheers, carrying his tenor sax, while dressed in a black t-shirt and dark jeans. Paul eventually joined in, and the group sounded fantastic. Paul would later relate that this was the first time that he’d enjoyed the pleasure of playing with popular local session guitarist Enrique Corro; but no one would ever suspect it. Enrique provided a marvelously inspired performance. True to their standing as accomplished professionals, all of the musicians united together like a well-drilled team. Bonny B., on loan from Spyro Gyra, was spectacular on the drums on "Burnin’," and throughout the balance of the show. His expertise in the use of polyrhythmic beats is unrivaled by anyone, anywhere.
The second selection played, "Streamline," was the second radio single pulled from Paul’s chart-topping Ladies’ Choice CD. Paul worked his alto sax with a joyous energy mutually infectious and crowd-pleasing. Bonny B. was "Hotter than Hades" on the drum-kit, and the group gave the song the enthused extended rendition that it deserved. The sound in the room was close to perfection, with all band members easily distinguishable and expertly blended. Paul told the audience that it was his first visit to the Aliante, and already it was his favorite Station property. He hit the nail squarely on the head when he proclaimed it "a combination of class and cool."
Next on the agenda was "Ladies’ Choice," the massively successful radio hit with its highly familiar happy feel-good groove. Bassist KT Tyler laid down the low notes with a playful glee, and this hit song was also given an expanded treatment, as Paul effortlessly held long notes and moved across the stage with a sway and a nearly marching type swagger. A heart-felt joy such as he displayed must be authentic and genuine, and cannot be faked.
Switching back to his tenor sax, which he utilized almost exclusively on Burnin’, Taylor robustly led the group on "Revival." Before the song began, he related that "Revival" was one of the first songs written for "Burnin’," and its retro-soul sound influenced the direction taken in recording the entire new CD. Enrique proved again to be quite impressive, while KT and Bonny B. churned out a heaping helping of down-home soul on the background vocals.
Once again, it was back to the Ladies’ Choice CD, for a song Paul described as one of his favorites. The song, "A Love of Your Own," had on the CD contained a sparkling vocal treatment by Lauren Evans. This song, of course, was originally recorded by The Average White Band, a group that continues to inspire. Without Ms. Evans here tonight, the classic took on a deeper dimension, and was exceptional. Paul stood center stage and wailed on his alto sax, with the entire group conspicuously excellent. Enrique Corro furnished retro-stylish wah-wah guitar effects, Boy Katindig offered a velvety lush foundation on keys, and KT Tyler bestowed deep thumping bass lines. Bonny B. meanwhile subtly well-grounded the group with his steady beat and sweetly sang the refrain.
Paul Taylor then reached for his soprano sax, as the band presented a lengthy introduction on route to reaching an unbelievable groove on the song "Don’t Wait Up," from Paul’s Nightlife CD. Truthfully, it can be concluded that Paul Taylor has few peers on the soprano saxophone. He was simply marvelously spell-binding. The song afforded each member of the group a small solo spotlight opportunity. First up was ultra-talented B.K., Boy Katindig, who has been with Paul Taylor’s touring group for five years on various keyboards. The son of Philippine Jazz legend, Romy Katindig, Boy is becoming a local legend in his own right, with headlining performances at Jazz on the Lake. Next was gifted guitarist Enrique’s turn alone, followed by KT burning up the bass. Saving perhaps the best for last, Bonnie B. administered his striking solo. These were no "ordinary" sidemen Paul had assembled for this special evening.
Taylor informed the crowd that it was time to chill out, and grabbed his alto sax again as the group embarked on a mission "After Hours." Everyone had fun with this laid back tune, and it was apparent that the crowd appreciated the effort. Paul afforded Enrique another turn in the limelight, and Corro brilliantly responded by brandishing some beautiful Wes Montgomery influenced guitar resonances for this song that mixed chill with a bit of funk.
BK played the familiar keyboard chords which signal it’s time for everyone to go "Deeper." As is his usual practice when he plays this song from Pleasure Seeker, Paul invited some lucky ladies onstage to accompany him as he affectionately emitted note after beautiful note of sensual tones from his soprano sax. A dozen or so women packed the stage, and Paul wove a romantic enthralling spell that generated a mass oscillation of the ladies swaying side to side in time with the soft, sweet, and much appealing melody.
Following a few hugs, the ladies headed off the stage and Paul asked: "Are there any "Pleasure Seekers" in the audience?" This caused a series of hand waving and clapping, as everyone realized that one of Paul Taylor’s most beloved songs would be next to come. Enrique switched to acoustic guitar, and the delicious groove produced by the band on "Pleasure Seeker" was deep as an ocean. Taylor played his instrument with a zealous passion, pulling profoundly from his heart to strongly connect with all present. Truly a transcendent moment transpired, as one of the greatest melodies ever to emerge from the smooth jazz idiom was lovingly presented for the concert’s highlight.
Time for a bit of funk from bass guitar player KT Tyler, who accompanied his awesome solo with some scat vocals. He asked Bonny B. for some assistance, and Bonny B. presented his Jamaican reggae meets soulful rap vocal without missing a solitary beat on the drums. Together they persuaded the crowd to stand and presented the question "what is the reason that everyone is here." Various answers were shouted back, among them "to party," "to have a good time," and even one person who replied "to celebrate my birthday." KT reminded everyone that the purpose was to benefit the Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Fund, and they teasingly offered a small sampling of The Ohio Players funk-filled chestnut "Fire."
Paul then announced "Let’s take it home fellows." As the band started to play, he portrayed to the audience that the song to come was from his first solo recording back in 1995; a time when he was a very happy man. The CD was On The Horn and the song was the ever-beautiful "Exotica." This tune, yet another of Taylor’s biggest hits, is endowed with a gorgeous melody played on soprano saxophone. "Exotica" contains enough substantial hooks to go deep sea fishing with, and the crowd loved it in equal proportion to Paul’s love of performing it. During the song he departed the stage, and executed a casual stroll through the thrilled crowd, pausing every now and then to serenade a spectator. Paul is a highly skilled showman; a world-class musician blessed with an undeniably charming charisma.
Everyone in the audience left with huge smiles on their faces, aware they had been treated to an evening of enchanting and captivating music by the finest contemporary jazz musicians that Las Vegas has to offer. In a city that bills itself as the "Entertainment Capital of The World," the epicenter of that said World on this night was most assuredly the Aliante Station’s Access Showroom.