Saxophonist Dennis Taylor had established himself as a saxophonist on the roots music scene with tenures in the bands of Gatemouth Brown, Buckwheat Zydeco, Duke Robillard and most recently Delbert McClinton among others. His sudden passing this past October was a shock to many friends he had made while performing. Shortly after joining McClinton’s Band in the summer of 2008, Taylor approached Delbert’s keyboard player, Kevin McKendree, about doing a project that resulted in the posthumously issued “Steppin’ Up” (Kizybosh Records). This a album of organ trio performances with Taylor’s saxophone, McKendree on the Hammond B-3 and and one of three drummers (Chester Thompson (Weather Report, Frank Zappa, Genesis), Kenneth Blevins (John Hiatt) and Lynn Williams (Delbert McClinton)), with McClinton himself making a cameo appearance, singing on “Since I Feel For You.”
This is album of blowing tenor, funky B-3 and finger-popping groves kicked off with the New Orleans groove of “Lee’s Lick,” which one might guess was dedicated to the legendary Crescent city tenor man Lee Allen. Issac Hayes’ “Cafe Reggio,” has a mellow groove before Taylor takes a robust solo displaying his full tone. Dr. John’s “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” is an interesting choice and Taylor really gets gutbucket here although the accompaniment is rather simple. McClinton takes a low-key approach to the vocal on the Buddy Johnson penned standard, “Since I Feel For You” with Taylor’s tenor complementary to the vocal before his very lyrical solo as McKendree comps.
Taylor’s rendition of Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” will get the fingers snapping and after McKendree’s solo, Taylor takes us out in rousing form. Leroy Johnson’s “Lady Day,” is a moody ballad performance followed Taylor’s lively original “Stepping Up,” with McKendree adding the right amount of grease on his solo. There is more second-line groove on Taylor’s “The Gospel Truth” which is followed by Taylor’s marvelous ballad playing on the Lennon-McCartney chestnut, “And I Love Her.” Nice renderings of Percy Mayfield’s “The River’s Invitation,” and the Fats Domino classic “Josephine and three other Taylor originals complete this recording of which “Here’s The Deal,” a hard bop burner and the closing late night blues, “Back at the Teddy Bear Lounge,” are especially worth pointing out.
There is about 70 or so minutes for the 14 performances collected here, the recording of which was completed two weeks before his passing. Taylor's widow, Karen Leipziger and Kevin McKendree completed this as a labor of love and a chance to leave us with this solid musical statement of a marvelous musician and person. This should be available from cdbaby.com.