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Shilts: Jigsaw Life

Shilts, aka Paul Weimer, continues to establish his smooth-jazz cred on his third CD with his groove-centered tunes and his big, bold and clean sax sounds. A former member of the U.K. jam-jazz band Down to the Bone, Shilts now gravitates to five-minute tunes like “Ain’t It Marvelous,” where melody and catchiness override showboating on his instrument. That’s not to say Shilts can’t play the horn-he most certainly can, and he even picks up the high-sounding soprano for the first time in 20 years and layers it over his husky tenor on several selections, most notably on “Listen Up” and the ballad “A Promise Is a Promise.”

All this sound is produced mostly by Shilts, who loops drum rhythms and plays keys, among other instruments. He leads a tight quartet with Bill Steinway on piano, Randy Jacobs on guitar and Nate Phillips on bass. It’s Steinway’s Fender Rhodes solo on “Piece by Piece” that adds a layer of tension during a tempo shift away from Shilts’ huge, oft-repeated hook. Steinway’s Down to the Bone-like rapid piano runs speed up the hit single “Back on the Hudson,” which begins with a burst of brass arranged by Simon Hale and Phillips’ slap bass around the edges of a pleasant disco rhythm. Hale returns to arrange a string quartet on “Broken Silence,” a got-everything song with Jacobs’ Spanish and rock guitar and Steinway’s tasty B3 organ solo.

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