Many smooth jazz fans will be surprised at the way the ‘unheard of’ Shilts has powered his way onto smooth jazz radio with ‘Look What Happened’. However, those in the know will have readily made the connection between Paul ‘Shilts’ Weimar and the urban jazz funk outfit Down To The Bone (DTTB) for whom he has been both bandleader and front man. ‘Look What Happened’ is the first radio single from his debut CD on Artizen Records, ‘Head Boppin’, and could be more accurately described as a big funky number from a big funky album.
Shilts hails from London, England and has been playing saxophone since his early teens. At the age of 15 he was asked to join the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Great Britain and while with them gained experience by supporting such great jazz stars as Nancy Wilson, Buddy Greco, Rosemary Clooney, George Shearing and Mel Torme.
A professional by the age of 16, Paul was soon working in nightclubs and backing the likes of Rose Royce, The Temptations, Four Tops, and The Drifters. Refreshed from a travel spree that saw him work in Hong Kong, the Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean he firmly established himself on the London session scene where he recorded with artists that included David Bowie, Jimmy Paige, Bill Wyman and Lulu. He hooked up with UK pop band Breathe who went on to have a sequence of top 10 hits in the USA but Shilts never lost sight of his love for jazz. He co-formed System X with five other like-minded London session musicians and, in part, this different exposure led to him being noticed for his soulful, funky saxophone style. He joined British Acid Jazz group The Brand New Heavies in 1994 and stayed with them for six years. In 1995 he took time out to tour with chart toppers Jamiroquai but it was during his time with the Heavies that Shilts met keyboard player Neil Cowley. That in turn led to an introduction to Chris J Morgans at Internal Bass and Stuart Wade, who was then and is now, the creative force behind Down To The Bone. Chris and Stuart asked Paul to form and front the live incarnation of DTTB with the result that, numerous tours and six albums later, Shilts has become the face of the DTTB live band and a budding solo artist in his own right.
In fact his solo debut came in 2001 with ‘See What Happens’. The album earned Shilts a National Smooth Jazz Awards nomination for Best New Artist and the title of the first single from the new CD is a riff on the title of this 2001 release. ‘Look What Happened’ features Rick Braun on trumpet and flugelhorn while veteran sidemen Ricky Lawson (drums) and Lenny Castro (percussion) establish a groove that they maintain throughout. It’s hugely funky and looks all set to burst into the chart of thirty most played on smooth jazz radio. Even better is the seriously catchy ‘Knew You’d Like This’. It knocks your socks off with its sheer funkiness and poses the question of why it was not selected as first choice for radio. Rick Braun appears again on ‘Break The Mold’. This big feel good smooth jazz number rocks along in its pleasing mid tempo way and Braun steps up again, this time on vocals, for the Latin tinged and jazzy ‘Pesos For Bud’.
‘Got Love’ is co-written by Shilts and his one time colleague from The Brand New Heavies, Siedah Garrett. This authentic slice of jazz funk takes the reunion right into the studio where Shilts blows up a storm and then some over Garrett’s slinky smooth vocals. The title track is bright and of course funky. It will do for you just what its name suggests while ‘Good Evans’ is slower, smoky but ultra catchy too. Jazzy in a straight ahead (ish) kind of a way it features a guest performance by Jeff Lorber on piano.
As well as sharing production credits with Artizen co-owner Rick Braun, Shilts has written nine of the ten excellent tracks. The exception is his pleasant take on the Stevie Wonder composition ‘Tuesday Heartbreak’ which includes a guitar solo from fellow Brit Chris Standring. The wonderful ‘Mrs Magic’ is one of several tracks blessed by the excellent Fender Rhodes and keyboards of Bill Steinway. Freddie Washington’s bass gets this one cooking while Braun on trumpet, Nick Lane on trombone and of course Shilts himself combine to produce the horn section from heaven. With additional contributions from Ricky Peterson on Hammond B3, Ross Bolton on guitar and the aforementioned Castro and Lawson, the result is a funky crawler that reeks of retro earthiness. Despite all that, Smooth Jazz Therapy’s selection for best track on the album is ‘Say Something’. Warm and romantic with that full Shilts sound, this is a piece of smooth jazz that checks all the right boxes.
‘Head Boppin’ is an album that continuously endorses the feel that Shilts has for funk and is proof, if indeed proof were needed, that he is right here right now as a serious solo smooth jazz performer.
For more on Shilts go to www.shiltsmusic.com