“Shilts” is the stage name of saxophonist Paul Weimar, a U.K. native now settled in Southern California. He’s built up solid credentials with three British acid-jazz/jam bands: System X, Brand New Heavies and Down to the Bone (as an original member). But although Shilts obviously digs the groove, he’s now looking to strengthen the smooth-jazz cred he first displayed on his debut solo CD from 2001, See What Happens. Shilts has a powerful ally in trumpeter Rick Braun, who just so happened to cofound the ARTizen label with saxophonist Richard Elliot.
Although it’s unlikely Shilts will ever stray too far from the brass-heavy, funky grooves he’s played all his life—witness the bluesy jam “I Knew You’d Like This”—HeadBoppin certainly makes a case for Shilts as an emerging force on the smooth-jazz scene. It’s hard not to compare his playing with Elliot’s himself on such tunes as the title track, “Look What’s Happened” and “Good Evans,” the latter featuring Braun on trumpet and Jeff Lorber on keys. Both Shilts and Elliot favor a rich, polished tenor sound.
Also in Shilts’ favor: He proves he can lay down a midtempo groove with the best in smooth jazz on “Say Something,” a 1970s-tinged tune. For good measure, Shilts throws in a touch of Latin on “Two Pesos for Bud,” a smiley-face tune that offers spot-on vocalese by Braun himself. Shilts also salutes two of his idols, first on a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Tuesday Heartbreak” and later with a funky tribute to Grover Washington Jr. on an original tune he slyly dubs “Mrs. Magic.”