Babyfaced Frank Catalano, who looks barely old enough to shave, wields his razorsharp tenor saxophone like a machete on Pins ‘n’ Needles
to slice and dice a trio of standards, three of his own compositions and Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple from the Apple,” ably supported by renowned trumpet master Randy Brecker (on three selections) and an incendiary rhythm section spearheaded by pianist Willie Pickens, anchored by bassist Larry Gray and driven by drummer Joel Spencer. Catalano, a Chicagoan who’s still in his midtwenties, has a remarkable postbop vocabulary for one so young, as well as a technical proficiency that is the equal of many of today’s widely promoted “young lions.” If there’s a weakness, to these ears, it lies in his propensity to go overboard from time to time and allow sober musical judgment to be replaced by distasteful squawking. Otherwise, Catalano has plenty to say, and says it with equal parts intelligence and emotion. Brecker adds his voice on “Night and Day,” “Hey You!” and “Pins ‘n’ Needles,” and a persuasive one it is, skating nimbly around and through the changes to fashion solos that are models of propriety and awareness. Randy must have felt right at home, as there’s more than a trace of brother Michael Brecker’s fiery tenor phrasings (as well as Chris Potter’s) in Catalano’s arsenal. The studio date includes two duos, with Catalano accompanied by Pickens on “I Can’t Get Started” and Spencer on “Scrapple.” The first seems on the whole inspired, the second largely indifferent (which may be why its playing time is only 2:15). Catalano’s compositions — “Hey You!” (with its “Salt Peanuts” opening), “Pins ‘n’ Needles,” the bluesy “Spill It” — are brisk but basic themes that are quickly forgotten and easily overshadowed by the abovementioned standards and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia on My Mind” (performed, like “Spill It,” by Catalano and the rhythm section). A sturdy blowing session that marks another solid step forward in Catalano’s development.
Contact:Chicago Lakeside Jazz, P. O. Box 1952, Lombard, IL 60148 (phone 6304240801; fax 6304240806; web site, www.cljazz.com)
Personnel: Frank Catalano, tenor saxophone; Randy Brecker, trumpet, flugelhorn; Willie Pickens, piano; Larry Gray, bass; Joel Spencer, drums.