San Francisco Bay Area saxophonist/flautist Noel Catura's debut, Soulful Situation, is about as smooth and soulful a debut as possible. Unlike some smooth jazz recordingspassionless, contrived, and delivered as easy listening jazz for the massesCatura and crew withhold little in terms of expression and energy on this collection of eight original compositions.
The various rhythmic grooves supporting Catura's lead lines are familiar, but, Catura's playing commands and seizes the day. He's focused, swings with a fine rhythmic sense, and his improvisations are neither cliché-ridden nor boring. His robust tenor tone on "That's It" and elsewhere has an earthy bite to it, as if his reeds are soul- flavored. His overdubbing of multiple woodwinds and its blending with the ensemble on the title cut and throughout the set is excellent.
Of special note is the sultry "When I Lay Next to You." Here, Catura's tenor speaks an elegant image of soft lighting, fine wine and all that follows romantically, with an obvious channeling of the late saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.
in the saxophonist's approach. He lights it up quite well on the up-tempo "Angry Sicsate." While not exceptional harmonically or rhythmically complex, Catura's compositions do possesses memorable melodic hooks.
The multiple rhythm sections each lend support and drive throughout, doing an admirable job at making this a fine team effort.
"Blues Avenue to Karen's" must be a curvy, soul-slithering path as Catura and his group get down and dirty at a perfectly funky tempo. "Let's Wrestle Poppy!" is introduced by a priceless, but unnecessary, dad/baby recorded moment, but then jumps into a Gene Ammons
's Witnesses, with Catura overdubbing multiple saxophones that jump, jive and wail away.
Soulful Situation is an enjoyable, very listenable first effort by a fine composer and performer. It is a soulful, but not smothering, smooth jazz solution.
Track Listing: That's It; Soulful Solution; When I Lay Next to You; Angry Sicsate;
Blues Avenue to Karen's; Let's Wrestle Poppy!; Looking; Just a Blues
Personnel: Noel Catura: saxophones, flute, keyboards (1, 3); Bryant Mills: drums
(2-4, 7); Ron E. Beck: drums (1, 5, 6, 8); Dan Nieckarz: guitar; Eric
Bolvin: keyboards (7); Paul Dorr: Rhodes and Organ (2, 5); Soni Sasmita:
bass; Steve Czarnecki: piano and Rhodes (1, 5, 6, 8).