BluesWax Rating: 8
Strong Old-School Organ Trio With a Cameo by Delbert McClinton
Dennis Taylor passed away on October 17, 2010, in Greenville, Texas, while on the road with Delbert McClinton just two weeks after recording his debut solo album.
Fourteen tracks make up Steppin' Up, eight covers and six originals, all instrumentals, except for Buddy Johnson's "Since I Fell for You" which features McClinton's vocals. Kevin McKendree co-produced and played B3. There are three different drummers: Chester Thompson, Kenneth Blevins, and Lynn Williams. Taylor plays sax, and Delbert sings.
Right out the box, Taylor's "Lee's Lick" has to be a tip of the hat to the great Crescent City saxophonist Lee Allen with its infectious second-line drum beat, Taylor's full-bodied tenor, and McKendree's burning B3. There are more New Orleans grooves on Dr. John's "I Walk On Gilded Splinters," which smolders and simmers like a extra tasty bowl of spicy gumbo.
Delbert McClinton often contributes to his sidemen's recordings, and told me that it was his idea to cover the classic "Since I Fell For You" with its 3 a.m. smoky club vibe and a dramatic sax solo, that make for a very pleasant addition. McClinton told me he isn't thrilled with his vocal performance but admits he never is. Nevertheless, he's always loved this tune. I concur. Remember the smash hit Lenny Welch cover?
This mighty trio also takes on Ray Charles' "Hallelujah I Love Her So" with its sweet and groove-laden, super-nice vamp, including a fiery B3 solo from McKendree. The pace quickens when Taylor moves things up several notches with a powerful sax excursion.
Taylor's title tune is a jazzy adventure that bops hard and shows off Taylor's appreciation and knowledge of an earlier period of jazz. It's a very well constructed tune that also features simmering and tasty solos from both Taylor and McKendree. Percy Mayfield's "The River's Invitation" is regally treated with a fine sax intro from Taylor and the band that builds and percolates.
Man, oh man, Taylor tears the roof off the house on his "Here's the Deal" which bops furiously. McKendree deserves high marks for being a consummate student of early Prestige and Blue Note organists. You'll dig Taylor's "Special K" with its delightful vamp and hypnotic performances from McKendree's lit-up organ, and Taylor's creative and deliberate sax playing. Closing out this fine recording is Taylor's "Back at the Teddy Bear Lounge," a slow blues that also has that late-night feel, making for a fine and appropriate conclusion to Steppin' Up.
Sometimes life is tough and bitter sweet. This recording was Dennis Taylor's only solo release credited to his name. Thankfully, we have his music preserved for many more years to follow.
Comments below are from those who knew him best.
"Dennis Taylor was a good man, and I mean it exactly the way I just said. He was always prepared for our shows, was in total control of his solo segments and choruses. Dennis was great to be around, always smiling, and in a good mood, a very positive man. It's spooky as he was there. Then all of sudden he was gone. I will always miss him for who and what he was." - Delbert McClinton
"Dennis had an old-school kind of tone that isn't heard in most tenor players' playing anymore. He had a great sense of what to play and what not to play. It was his voice. He made his horn sing. I think we captured that with this recording." -Kevin McKendree
"When I ended my twenty-three-year career playing sax with Delbert, I couldn't think of a better person/sax player to pass the baton to than Dennis. He had good control of his horn and didn't rely on crowd pleasing antics, i.e. screeching high notes and one thousand notes per square inch. That made for a great musical attitude. He seemed to think more about what not to play, and that made his music even more resourceful and tasty to my ears." -Don Wise
"This recording is the realization of Dennis' longtime dream of recording an organ trio album - He poured his heart and soul into the music. Dennis finished recording the album just two weeks prior to his sudden and untimely passing in October 2010. The week that he left on his final road trip with Delbert McClinton's band, he and I went over the sequencing of the tunes. He was very proud of it. There was nothing he wanted to change, nothing he felt that could be improved upon." - Karen Leipziger, wife and publicist
Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob maybe contacted at: email@example.com
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com