Tacoma Weekly – by Ernest Jasmin

Make a Scene: Jazzbones to host saxaphone wizard Paul Sawtelle

Local sax man Paul Sawtelle puts his stamp on a wide array of pop classics with his new album, “Virtual Insanity.”

At the release party on Feb. 21 at Jazzbones, he and his Brotherhood of Soul band will perform several cuts from the new disc which opens with a shimmery, smooth-jazz translation of The Alan Parson Project’s 1977 classic, “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You,” and ultimately ends in this decade with a melancholy, instrumental version of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man.”

“There are songs from different decades, going all the way back to the ’70s, but they work well together because of the way we played ’em,” Sawtelle said earlier this week, checking in from a tour stop in Copenhagen in support of rising Tacoma country star Jessica Lynne, a native of Denmark.

“The groove of the thing is similar,” he said. “But I thought I could do something musically that can make them more interesting to the listener today as opposed to when they came out the first time; and they had to be songs that would adapt with the saxophone (playing) the vocal part.”

The title track is a remake of British acid jazz band Jamirioquai’s 1997 breakthrough. “I just love the piano part and the feel of that thing,” Sawtelle said. “It changes feel and time signatures throughout the song that just makes it a challenge to pull off.”

Among the most dynamically transformed numbers is “Why Can’t We Live Together,” an early ’70s hit for Timmy Thomas that has since been remade by the likes of Steve Winwood, Joan Osborne and Sade.

The arrangement is lush and melodic, contrasting Thomas’s soulful but lo-fi approach; and it features vocals by Izzy Parker – a singer Sawtelle found singing karaoke in Kent – and versatile Tacoma rapper Mr. Von, one of the opening acts at Jazzbones.

Sawtelle said he was especially drawn to that song’s message of unity and racial harmony. “I love the message of the song, particularly with what’s been going on today in Ferguson and New York and with all the problems we’ve been having recently,” he said.

“To make the thing my own, I brought in a guy named Mr. Von, who’s with Sweatbox Entertainment in Tacoma,” he said. “He walked in the studio and just nailed it before he was even supposed to be there, and left. He just killed it.”

The album also features a pair of originals – “Another Sunday Morning” and “Stubble Trouble” – that Sawtelle wrote with Los Angeles-based producer and songwriter Jeff Lorber whose new “Jazz Funk Soul” album was a runner up for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at last weekend’s Grammy Awards.

“Just the opportunity to work with such a genius on the piano was incredible,” Sawtelle said. “I learned quite a bit from him. Just seeing how the whole songwriting process works with a guy like that, I couldn’t pay for a lesson like that.”

On Feb. 21, the Brotherhood of Soul lineup will feature local guitar guru Rikk Beatty, John Stubblefield on bass, Maurice Bailey on drums and Tommy Sandovallegos on percussion. There will also be a few special guests, including Tacoma singer-songwriter and opening act Nolan Garrett, who appears on the CD, and singer Ayesha Brooks, a.k.a. Music Box, a Life Christian Academy alumnus who is best known for competed on the sixth season of NBC-TV’s “The Voice” last year.

Garrett and Mr. Von will open the show, which will start at 7:30 p.m. and is open to all ages. Ticket prices range from $8 to $10 with more details available by calling (253) 396-9169 or visiting.


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