Dennis Taylor

Dennis Taylor
Steppin’ Up

Kizybosh 2001

By Georgetown Fats
February 2011

There is a distinct challenge to reviewing a local artists, artists with local roots or posthumous musical releases. Whether it be to enhance positive mojo with the local community or in order to not speak ill of the departed, there is a tendency to oversell the recording in a review. In order to not fall into a similar trap, a un-scientific scientific study was conducted on Steppin’ Up. The disc was spun for some respected ‘jazz heads’ with none of the back story provided. Much for the same reasons why Dennis Taylor was a noted first call tenor sax player within Nashville, and why he also earned the ability to ‘write the book’ on tenor sax for Hal Leonard Publishing, everyone participating in the un-scientific scientific study thoroughly enjoyed Steppin’ Up. It represents Taylor at his best; a well-known respected sideman for such artists as Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Buckwheat Zydeco and Duke Robillard, with more than enough musical talent to captivate when leading his own band.

Dennis Taylor began studying saxophone at age nine while living in Vermont. After graduating high school, he advanced his musical education at the Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music. After establishing roots in Vermont, Dennis relocated to New Orleans to work with such artists as “Mighty” Sam McClain. After spending time in New Orleans, he followed his heart and came back to Boston, successfully working with a host of popular and diverse artists.

Eight of the fourteen tracks on Steppin’ Up are well chosen and somewhat reworked cover songs. On Dr. John’s “I Walk on Gilded Splinters,” Taylor and company retain the haunting New Orleans vibe prevalent in the original – however, Taylor’s version is more late night jazz club than trippy rock song.

On “And I Love Her,” Taylor and Hammond B-3 player Kevin McKendree strip out the 60’s pop element from the John Lennon and Paul McCartney Beatles hit and inject a slow and lustful vibe. This cover is the sound track to those rare moments of getting off the grid with a significant someone, and remembering to take the phone off the hook.

While all of the covers on Steppin’ Out stand up to the original, Taylor’s original compositions are well worth the price of the disk. On “Lee’s Lick” Taylor shows he ingested more than the Creole cooking when in New Orleans as Taylor’s trio effortlessly offer up a New Orleans swing. Taylor’s trio offer up an authentic musical roux which will have the listener bopping away with a craving for crawdads and gumbo.

Probably my favorite instrumental on the disk is “Back at the Teddy Bear Lounge.” Given the title of the track, it is not too hard to imagine it was created with someone in mind who will have this absolute gem of an instrumental to keep with them forever. Taylor, though full of absolute golden tone on his tenor sax throughout Steppin’ Out, “Back at the Teddy Bear Lounge” stands as a 5:44 minute testament to this gifted musician’s dream recording.

Taylor’s untimely departure on October 17, 2010 in Greenville Texas was roughly two weeks after he finished recording Steppin’ Out. Both condolences and kudos are owed to Kevin McKendree and Karen Leipziger for their great loss, and their ability to soldier on and bring Dennis Taylor’s music dream to the masses.

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