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Paul Howards: Elegance and Decadence

Saxophone remains the instrument of choice for a large population of today’s jazz romancers, and multi-horn blower Paul Howards shows no sign of emerging from the pack on Elegance and Decadence (Os-Nix Music X9704; 53:12). The fourth album for the Orlando-based artist, E&D is populated with slap-track percussion programs, bland keyboard chord movements, and rubberband samples-busy backgrounds which make his often capable and unique leads sound thin. Some fundamental production mistakes don’t help, either-like washing out his tenor with reverb on “Seranade,” creating a hollowing effect. Howards’ sporadic, spiraling licks on “Roadhouse,” are likewise rendered less funky (and more boring) by heavy-tracked percussion programming, and his piping alto/tenor read of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Reasons” is blanded out by a dragging keyboard effect. There’s really not enough of Howards himself on display to judge even whether he’s a more technical or emotionally charged player-though a clue may lie in the muscular alto phrases (though they’re still mixed too far in the background) of “Big Dog,” a slightly rocking piece with a fun melody, in spite of itself.

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