Steve Cole unveils a new sound on Spin (Narada). The smooth-jazz saxophonist had become fascinated with guitar-based pop music, and he decided to take up the guitar himself. Even though Cole's saxophone is still front and center, guitars play a prominent role in the arrangements on this album.
Spin opens with the catchy, upbeat "Thursday," which is followed by "The Real Me," wherein a bed of strummed guitars supports Cole's soaring sax melody. "Simple Things" has a soft-pop feel, while the organ-accented "I Was Alright" features more of a rock edge. "A Letter to Laura" is a romantic ballad Cole wrote for his wife, and the closer "Confounded" reveals a different musical side; it's a funky rouser that finds Cole blowing with abandon, infusing his performance with plenty of attitude. Cole's new sound fits his melodic sax voice well, and it'll be worth following how he develops it on future recordings.
Saxophonist Paul Taylor offers more of his honeyed smooth-jazz sound on Nightlife (Peak), although he adds a touch of electronica to a couple of tracks, such as the spiky, Latin-flavored "Anything You Say," and a rapid, slapping electronic beat offsets Taylor's silky sax on "Things Left Unsaid." There's plenty on this album that will please the Taylor faithful, such as the sweet sax harmonies on the ballad "Candlelight" and the lively spirit of the title track. Taylor's lyricism imparts an intimacy to the grooving "After Hours," and his sax prowls along, slinky and soulful, on "Around the Corner." Nightlife is a solid smooth-jazz outing, but while Taylor mixes it up a bit with the electronic accents, it's essentially a very safe recording. It would be nice to see this appealing artist take a few more risks with his music to see what he comes up with.