The title of Rodney Taylor’s latest independent contemporary jazz release asks a fascinating question the popular, in demand saxophonist has been asking all his life: Can I Blow For You? Building a multi-faceted career as a touring and studio sideman in the gospel, R&B and jazz worlds these past 20 years, the Southern California based musician and songwriter has received an overwhelming “yes” response from an incredible number of artists: Anita Baker (whom he toured with from 2006 to 2009), Marcus Johnson, Vesta Williams, The Emotions, Brian McKnight, Doc Powell, El Debarge, Deniece Williams, Chaka Khan and gospel greats Phil and Brenda Nicholas and Edwin Hawkins.
Taylor’s follow up to his debut CD Blow By Blow (do you detect a theme here?) is a dynamic urban jazz oriented collection featuring nine sizzling and sensual originals and unique covers of three pop classics from the 1980s: Christopher Cross’ “Sailing,” Phil Collins’ “Another Day In Paradise” and Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative.” The track “Passion” (whose title fully captures the faith, life experiences and heartfelt emotion the saxman brings to every song) features contemporary jazz greats Jeff Lorber (piano), Greg “G Moe” Moore (Earth, Wind & Fire), Alex Al (bass) and Tony Moore (drums). “Moreso even than my first project, I wanted this collection to showcase me as a writer and producer as well as a saxophonist,” says Taylor, who alternates between soprano and alto and often snazzes up tracks with his unique flair for horn texturing. “It’s all about feeling good, engaging people, offering up a little romance and even songs that listeners can dance along to. It’s a feel good album that I think a lot of pop, R&B and jazz fans can vibe with.”
Between the release of Blow By Blow and Can I Blow For You?, Taylor’s main touring gig was with eight time Grammy winning singer Anita Baker, with whom he played such venues as Radio City Music Hall and The Essence Festival at the Superdome in New Orleans. The saxman also did West Coast tour dates with keyboardist Marcus Johnson, local concerts with Vesta Williams and The Emotions, and a special project at the House of Blues with Brian McKnight. His resume includes shows with everyone from Doc Powell and El Debarge to Miki Howard, Deniece Williams and many years of shows with gospel greats Phil and Brenda Nicholas. He has opened for Al Jarreau, Phil Perry and Howard Hewett and has done hundreds of his own club dates, private parties and corporate shows for companies like Mattel.
Every listener’s response to “Can I Blow For You?” will be a resounding “yes” from the first strains of his opening original “Midnite Wind,” a cool, in the pocket, emotional and melodic mid-tempo alto ballad featuring a simmering bassline. His unique doubling of the soprano lines on “Sailing” helps capture all the magic, passion and moody eloquence of the classic hit, while “Passion” is pure elegant funk featuring Lorber’s lush piano and an easy grooving lead alto melody. As its title would indicate, “In Ya Ear Drum” is a no holds barred, edgy hip-hop/funk excursion mixing a hypnotic rolling bassline, seductive spoken voices, thick percussion groove and dancing horn textures. Taylor has no trouble getting to the heart of the matter on “I Feel Like Blowin’”, a high energy, super funky jamming interlude. When he gets around to asking the title question “Can I Blow For You?,” he’s pure romance, with an atmospheric, soaring ballad that includes spoken words of seduction a la the great Barry White. Back to the funk, Taylor infuses Bobby Brown’s new jack swing anthem “My Prerogative” with fire, soul, cool harmonies and intensely jazzy improvisations. From the same era but setting a completely different mood is a sweet instrumental twist on Phil Collins’ “Another Day In Paradise,” which features both alto and soprano. Taylor rounds out the set with several originals which capture different vibes—starting with the candlelight cool of “Sweet Seduction” and the easy funk, horn drenched, shuffling bass driven “Chocolate.” He makes a spirited callback to “I Feel Like Blowin’” before wrapping with the thick bass and snazzy horn texture driven, smokin’ mid tempo “Knock Turnal.”
“Instrumental artists are rarely clever with their album titles, but saxophonist Rodney Taylor stands out from the indie pack right away by getting in our groove-hungry faces with a question worth pondering: Can I Blow For You? Even after repeated listenings, you’re bound to answer “Heck yeah” because Taylor keeps the mood hoppin’ from cool and candlelit seduction to explosive funk (featuring dazzling horn textures), switching off between alto and soprano to set just the right tone and mood, bringing classics up to date while creating edgy R&B sounds that bode well for the future of smooth urban jazz.” – Jonathan Widran
FROM THE BEGINNING
Rodney Taylor started playing at the age of 10 in the school band in Los Angeles. While he was learning the basics, he was listening to Stevie Wonder, Grover Washington, Jr. and other artists that, he says, “touched my feelings and roots.” He adds, “The first thing I learned to play by ear was Grover Washington's famous masterpiece entitled Mister Magic. I played it over and over until I learned it. I must have seemed to be a strange kid because I liked to practice in the bathroom; I liked the way it sounded. My mother saw my commitment and musical intelligence way back then, and supported me in all of my endeavors and conquests. I continued playing through Jr. High School, in various community and school bands and orchestras. My mom was so proud to see me as one of only three children to play in an orchestra full of adults.”
Attending Locke High School in Los Angeles, he participated in a variety of music groups and classes and was introduced to the saxophone—an experience that inspired his skyrocketing musical passion. Two weeks after graduating, Taylor began to tour with various groups and participating in recording sessions. After establishing himself in the gospel world—which included a stint as choral and musical director at the world famous First A.M.E. church in Los Angeles, he released his solo debut Soul 4-1-1 on Command/Epic Records in 1991. His talents as a vocal arranger include a track on the Barney film soundtrack featuring Take 6, Jeffrey Osborne and the First A.M.E church choir. His accomplishments include receiving a NAACP Award nomination for Best Musical Director, for “Has Anybody Seen My Rainbow” in 2002.