The 10-track Tenacity is saxophonist Paul Taylor’s 10th album, and the smooth-jazz star continues to find interesting new settings for his sweet, appealing sax sound. Covering a wide swath of stylistic ground, Tenacity affords Taylor ample opportunity to stretch out in many directions. Producer and longtime Taylor collaborator Dino Esposito keeps the arrangements relatively uncluttered, focusing attention squarely on Taylor, who alternates between soprano, alto and tenor, often layering the saxophones. Harmonizing altos lead the melody on the easy-grooving title track, while on “Spur of the Moment” Taylor overdubs his sax and serves as his own horn section.
Taylor offers a solemn, dramatic take on Canadian artist the Weeknd’s hit “Wicked Games,” the plaintive alto melody and barely-there vocal accents laid over a spare, percussive groove that features a distinctive knocking rhythm. Keyboardist Jonathan Fritzen’s bright piano matches Taylor’s lively soprano on the cheery, infectiously catchy “Supernova,” and guitarist Brian Monroney’s graceful acoustic work complements Taylor’s alto on the ballad “Awakening.”
While Taylor and Esposito do a solid job of keeping the spotlight on the sax throughout Tenacity, sometimes you want to hear a big-name guest strut his stuff. Contemporary jazz veteran Jeff Lorber plays guitar and electric piano on the ballad “Luxe,” but he seems underutilized. The track boasts a lovely melody articulated soulfully by Taylor, but Lorber contributes little more than a repetitive rhythmic line. “Luxe” is one of the album’s standout tunes, and enhancing it with a Lorber solo or some interplay with Taylor would have better served the composition.