Interview: Philippe Saisse Revisits ‘The Body and Soul Sessions’

James Wood
Jun 27 · 4 min read

For the remastered version of his trio’s groove-laden and hit-filled “The Body and Soul Sessions,” renowned maestro Philippe Saisse teamed up with Grammy-winning engineer Colin Leonard for a package that’s nothing short of an over the top listening experience.

The acoustic jazz trio’s eclectic, 12-song collection of pop, R&B and jazz covers spawned no less than four singles when it was originally released in 2006, including #1 interpretations of “Do It Again” (Steely Dan) and “September” (Earth, Wind & Fire). With this fresh update on Saisse’s spirited piano, Fender Rhodes and keyboards, along with David Finck’s probing acoustic bass and Scooter Warner’s percussive rhythm, The Body and Soul Sessions Remastered is an even more fun and enjoyable ride, and the perfect soundtrack for summer.

The Body and Soul Sessions Remastered contains the following songs:

“Do It Again”
“September”
“Lady Madonna”
“Harley Davidson”
“Lovely Day”
“Fire and Rain”
“Constant Rain”
“The Dolphin”
“Comment Te Dire Adieu”
“Body and Soul”
“We’re All Alone”
“If I Ever Lose This Heaven”

I recently spoke with Philippe Saisse about The Body & Soul Sessions and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did the trio come together?

The genesis of the trio was something that happened organically. I had met the bass player, David Fink, when I was working on a George Michael session twenty years ago. I was doing a lot of work for Phil Ramone at the time and David was also in the studio. I’d never heard of him before, but once I heard his sound I knew that if I ever wanted to do a trio he would be the guy to call. Scooter had already been with my electric band for years and I thought it would be an interesting mix to put someone like Scooter, who’s an urban, street drummer, with David. I remember as soon as I counted off and heard that groove for the first time that it was going to be fun. It felt so good.

Do certain songs lend themselves better to jazz interpretation?

The only real trick is that the melody has to be moving and not too repetitious. Melodic songwriters like Michel Legrand, Boz Scaggs and Leon Ware quickly come to mind. Most modern pop music is more lyric-oriented and rhythmic. Those songs don’t translate well. You have to a have song that has a wide range and is harmonically interesting.

Let’s talk about a few tracks from The Body & Soul Sessions, starting with “Do It Again.”

I used to be part of the house band for David Sanborn’s “Night Music Show” and every night we’d play all of this super-complex and great music. Then, for the encore, we’d always play Crusader’s “Put It Where You Want It.” It was such a simple song with a great groove and every time we played it the crowd was jumping off their feet and dancing. I had it in my mind that I wanted to include a song that would have that same feeling and “Do It Again” has exactly that same vibe.

“September.”

I grew up listening to Earth, Wind & Fire so that was always one of my favorite songs. The beat is so great. A lot of songs in those days were more guitar-oriented. So it was interesting to hear the piano/keyboard. I knew it would be a great song to feature. Scooter just nailed that groove, and when you hear David’s upright bass it takes you to a completely different dimension.

“Constant Rain.”

I’d never actually heard that song before, but when I was working on the record and needed one more song, my engineer suggested it. It’s a challenging track with an intricate melody and a great hook. It feels summery and happy. Then I found out Sergio Mendes had a hit with it and that’s when I said if it’s good enough for Sergio Mendes, it’s certainly good enough for me [laughs].

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

I’ve got so many things going on. Rick Braun’s record was just finished and I’m currently working on Mark Antoine’s record. I’ve also got enough material for half an album of a solo record. There are so many things on my board right now and I’m just as enthusiastic about what I do today as I was for my first record. It’s an awesome feeling to still be doing it.

Of all the highlights of your career is there one thing that stands out to you as most memorable?

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t wake up and go downstairs to my studio, look at my instruments and think, “Wow! I’m still doing this!” I started in 1977 and I’m busier than ever. My ultimate thing last year was to be on the Chic record, ‘It’s About Time’. I’ve been working with Nile [Rodgers] for years but to be with all of those luminaries, like Elton John and Lady Gaga, on a Chic album was a pinch me moment.

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