With the release of their highly anticipated, stylistically eclectic and freewheeling new full length album On The Level, The Philippe Saisse Trio is back - as what the keyboardist/composer calls a “trio plus one!”
Spread out from New York and L.A. to Tampa and New Orleans, their fresh and funky, in the pocket, exotic-tinged vibe combines Saisse’s inventive, high octane piano and retro key melodies and improvisations with the relentless grooves of acoustic bassist David Finck, drummer Skoota Warner and their newest member, percussionist Gumbi Ortiz.
Seven years after the release of At World’s Edge, a 2011 Grammy nominee for Best
Contemporary Jazz Album, the veteran composer, keyboardist and contemporary urban jazz hit maker and his unique ensemble recaptured their fans’ imagination with three radio smashes that dominated the airplay charts for months – and laid the foundation for the release of On The Level. “And So But Then” reached #8 on Billboard’s National Smooth Airplay chart and spent five weeks in the Top 20 – ranking it as one of Billboard’s Top 20 Smooth Jazz Songs for the year. Following the next single, the title track “On The Level,” which also reached the Top 20, “Blue Rondo” powered its way to #7.
In 2006, Saisse, Finck and Warner, recording as The Philippe Saisse Trio, scored a hit with The Body and Soul Sessions, whose Fender Rhodes centered version of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” spent six weeks at #1 on Radio & Records’ airplay chart (and 20 weeks in the Top Ten), was #1 for five weeks at Smoothjazz.com and was the #6 played track in the format for the years.
“I am a great fan of this rhythm section of David and Skoota,” says Saisse, recipient of the Medal of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French Government and Minister of Arts and Communication. “Their styles are as different as you can get, creating a combination that is really exciting and unique. David’s a straight ahead jazz guy who also can bring great funk to the upright bass. He usually plays with more traditional jazz artists. Skoota is a rapper who brings heavy funk and rock chops and a street vibe to the mix. Together, they bring a real sense of ‘funk grit’ to my sound – something very rare for an acoustic trio. I toured in Al Di Meola’s band with Gumbi for two and a half years, and he offered to add his percussion to some tracks I had been working on. He took them to a whole new level of earthiness and worldliness, and this got me
excited about working on a whole new full length project. Think of us as the three musketeers, who were four!”
Saisse has also been a mainstay on Smooth Jazz radio these past few years working with other artists. He appeared on the late Jeff Golub’s “Swagster” (Five weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Songs chart), Rick Braun’s Top Ten hit “Can You Feel It” and Al Di Meola’s “La Lluvia,” which Saisse also penned; “La Lluvia hit the Top 20 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz National Airplay chart, the legendary guitarist’s first hit in that format. In addition, Saisse is featured on Marc Antoine’s latest Top 5 single “Why Not” and played on several other tracks from the guitarist’s 2016 album Laguna Beach. He wrote and arranged emerging bassist Allen Carman’s current single “Groove Salad,” which features sax great Andy Snitzer and launched as the #29 most added track; Carman is currently signed to Gumbi Ortiz’s production company.
Saisse also recently created a compelling promotional video for his rhythmically dynamic, haunting and hypnotic piano driven track “Agua.” The clip features multiple split screens showing the multi-talented French born, Los Angeles based musician playing keys while creating percussion and harmony sounds using the piano’s wood and inner strings.
These past five years have found Saisse as busy and eclectic as ever in his musical endeavors, touring in between stints as a composer, arranger and producer for a wide range of projects for recordings artists, films, TV shows and video games. From 2009-2011, he toured Europe and Japan as part of the PSP trio with Simon Phillips and Pino Palladino, both of whom were featured on At World’s Edge. Saisse’s history with Phillips goes back to the early 80s, when both toured with guitar legend Al Di Meola; it was Saisse’s first-ever jazz gig. PSP released a Live in Tokyo album and a follow-up EP and will soon put out a Live in Zoertemeer DVD.
Coming full circle, Saisse did over 100 North American dates in throughout 2016 as keyboardist and Music Director with Di Meola’s new lineup that includes Ortiz, bassist Elias Tona, drummer Luis Alicea and new comer and violin sensation Evan Garr. These include performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival and Toronto Jazz Festival. In May 2016, Saisse performed the Emerson, Lake & Palmer classics “From The Beginning” and “Nutrocker” as part of an all-star lineup at The Official Keith Emerson Tribute Concert at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. In early 2017, Saisse toured with the latest leg of Di Meola’s band tour throughout the East Coast and Canada (Montreal and Quebec City).
Highlights on Saisse’s expansive resume since 2011 include producing, arranging and performing on Rick Braun’s Sings With Strings with the Prague Symphony Orchestra; arranging and playing on the trumpeter’s Swingin’ in the Snow; co-writing and co-producing two tracks on Braun’s most recent release Can You Feel It; arranging for BWB (Braun-Kirk Whalum-Norman Brown)’s Michael Jackson songbook Human Nature; producing and co-composing “Time Never Sleeps,” on Peter White’s 2012 release Here We Go and playing piano and keyboards on the guitarist’s 2014 album Smile; co-composing the score for Milla Jovovich’s Faces in the Crowd film (2011); and scoring actress Stana Katic’s (“Castle”) community service documentary Alternative Travel Project.
More recently, Saisse arranged and produced a remake of “When You Wish Upon A Star” for an exclusive video featuring young YouTube stars the Blu-ray edition of Disney’s Signature Collection Release of Pinocchio. He continues composing additional music for the CBS drama Madam Secretary, is the go-to- composer for Variety's commercials and in 2016 performed on the score for The History Channel’s highly rated reboot of the classic Roots miniseries. The keyboardist co-scored Faces In The Crowd , Milla Jovovich’sfilm, released in 2011; composed incidental music for famed director Stephen Hopkins’ new film Race (The Jesse Owens Story); was guest pianist and string arranger on “Now,” the title track and single for Chicago’s latest album; penned several cues featured on the hit TV show The Real Husbands of Hollywood; wrote material with Chicago lead singer/bassist Jason Scheff. Saisse has also been writing new material with the late vocal legend Al Jarreau and toured with Braun and saxophonist Warren Hill. Saisse has also been composing commercials for major companies like Karma Electric Cars and Fender Guitars on behalf of Variety Magazine.
In September 2016, Saisse worked on Cider: Hard & Soft, the third album project of 20 year old female Japanese drum sensation Senri Kawaguchi. The band he assembled is a new incarnation of his power trio PSP, with Senri on drums and Armand Sabal-Lecco (Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke) on bass. The lineup, collectively known as Triangle, made its live debut at the Tokyo Jazz Festival and played four other dates on a tour in September 2017. A live DVD of these performances was recorded.
“I’m really excited about this unique departure, experimenting with a new business model and tapping into the strength of my devoted social media followers, to release these new singles,” Saisse says. “Creatively, I like the idea of focusing on one single at a time and bringing fresh new ‘blood’ to the trio sound with guests like Marc and Gumbi. It’s exhilarating to have the opportunity to push the envelope and create music off the beaten tracks.”
The upcoming full length release by The Philippe Saisse Trio will include all their recent radio singles (including their latest, “Blue Rondo” which reached #7 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz radio chart) and seven new originals.