Even as he’s dazzled audiences around the world with his high energy soloing over the funky beats of U.K. jazz groove sensations Down To The Bone, Paul “Shilts” Weimar just wants to be known as “an approachable Cat from London who wants to have a laugh…a cheeky cockney chappy.” Whether he’s leading the horn section in DTTB or doing his solo thing, part of the fun for the charismatic saxophonist is getting people up and dancing. If they’re listening to him blow from the car stereo, no doubt they’ll be up for some serious Headboppin, the name of his popular 2006 disc.
“The main idea behind my solo work is that it’s completely away from everything I do with Down To The Bone,” says Shilts, who has played on all six of the group’s collective recordings and is their last remaining original member. “My roots go back to the 70s funk and soul stuff, but I also love bringing that up to date with all the new technology…so my own records are really a blend of modern sounds and retro flavors. I’ve always liked to play in the high energy style of the band but it’s all groove and style. With my own material, I write for my sax as if it were a vocal instrument. It’s more melody than riff based, and the goal is to create songs that listeners can’t get out of their heads. I want it to reflect the sense of joy I get being around people, getting to know them and having fun.”
Jigsaw Life keeps the groovage bouncing and builds on his passions for those infectious, in the pocket hooks and major blasts of funk energy as he celebrates a reunion of sorts. For this album, he signed back with NuGroove, the first label DTTB signed with and with whom they released their 1997 debut From Manhattan to Staten. Story goes that he originally wrote the seductive, easy flowing opener “Piece By Piece” for Rick Braun and Richard Elliot, two of the owners of his previous label ARTizen. Their failure to record it allows it to be a playful retro soul free-for-all for the composer, who tackles the dual horn vibe by doubling his trademark tenor with his little heard soprano. He doubles both horns again, to sizzling effect, on the blazing yet (in passages) sensual “Listen Up” and employs their dual sound more tenderly on the sweet romance “A Promise Is A Promise.”
Both horns also grace “Broken Silence”, which balances an overall punchy and percussive, bluesy flavor with segments that blend acoustic guitar soloing (by Randy Jacobs) and classical/symphonic textures. On that track, Shilts has Bill Steinway on Hammond B-3, while the moody, old schoolin’ “Too Close To The Edge” finds the keyboardist dazzling on Fender Rhodes. Both convey a soulful and vibrant throwback to the days when organic funk ruled. There’s also Rhodes behind the snazzy, brass driven blowout “Ain’t It Marvelous” and the rousing, clubby closer “Time Gentlemen Please.”
Though Shilts’ solo tracks are always more focused melodically than the jams associated with DTTB, the high energy, thumping “Back On The Hudson” perfectly captures that cool craziness; in fact, Shilts began performing it with his other band on a Spirit Cruise in New York. The Jigsaw Life concept makes for some cool cover artwork but thankfully doesn’t apply to the sparkling fun and funk on the collection itself—in fact, Shilts sounds more together and focused than ever on one of smooth jazz’s best discs of 2008.