P>Frank Catalano comes out of DePaul University's well-respected jazz studies program. He's worked with top performers occupying diverse spots on the musical spectrum, from vocalist Tony Bennett to the rock group Ministry. Catalano has also toured and recorded with the likes of Louis Bellson, Charles Earland and Clark Terry. He also sits in the sax section of two of Chicago's top big bands, John Burnett's Orch. and Lenny King's Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra.
Pins `n Needles is bop at it's hardest - driving, filled with chromatic and harmonic invention and all played straight to the point. If you're looking for sophistication or subtlety, you need to go somewhere else. This session brings to mind and ear those small group hard blowing sessions of the1950's and 60's. Interestingly Guest Randy Brecker's softer fluegelhorn, while picking up the hard bop cudgels, acts as a buffer to Catalano's acerbic horn on the tracks where he's present like "Hey You!". Regular members of Catalano's quartet, veteran pianist Willie Pickens and bassist Larry Gray each get more than a modicum of solo space here. But the star of this cut is Joel Spencer. He runs the gamut of drumming emotions. There's his strong, assertive time keeping for Catalano and Brecker. He then employs delicate cymbals behind Pickens and Gray. Finally, he ends with a tasteful, not overbearing drum solo. This is outstanding percussive work. In contradistinction to this high-flying track comes a relatively delicate "I Can't Get Started". But while in a ballad mood, Catalano's sax continues to have that biting sound that characterizes practicing bop tenors. Endowed with more than ordinary improvisional skills the tenor saxophonist embarks on a journey of invention on "Georgia on My Mind" where for more than seven minutes he explores all the nooks and crannies of this Hoagy Carmichael classic. Blues is the name of the game on his "Spill It" with steady comping by Pickens and bowed bass by Gray. "Pins `n Needles" becomes a lesson in trumpet invention by Randy Brecker again with the imaginative bass of Larry Gray adding burnish to the track.
Frank Catalano is a "tough tenor" much on the mold of Johnny Griffin, a young Joe Henderson, or Tina Brooks. Bop lives! This album is recommended.
Personnel: Frank Catalano - Tenor Sax; Randy Brecker - Trumpet/Fluegelhorn; Willie Pickens - Piano; Larry Gray - Bass; Joel Spencer - Drums