Seven years after the release of At World’s Edge, a 2011 Grammy nominee for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, veteran composer, keyboardist and contemporary urban jazz hit maker Philippe Saisse has returned to the forefront as an artist with an exciting array of fresh airplay hits under his own name and contributions as a composer and performer to hits by other artists, among many other exciting new musical activities.
Gearing up for a full length reunion release, expected later in 2017, The Philippe Saisse Trio – featuring Saisse, bassist David Finck and drummer Skoota Warner – resumed their hit making ways early in 2016 with the single “And So But Then,” which reached #8 on the Billboard National Airplay chart and spent a total of five weeks in the Top 20. The track, which made the Billboard 2016 year end list of Top 20 Smooth Jazz Songs, featured acoustic guitarist Marc Antoine and renowned Latin jazz percussionist Gumbi Ortiz, who recently became the trio’s official fourth member. “Think of it as the 3 Musketeers, who were 4!” Saisse says. The title of the song paid homage to the clever wordplay of late famed author David Foster Wallace, one of Saisse’s favorites. The Trio’s follow-up single “On The Level” hit the Top 20 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs chart.
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.”
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.
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, will make its live debut at the Tokyo Jazz Festival in September 2017.
“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.