Carl Bartlett, Jr.
Jazz At Kitano
New York, NY
September 25, 2014
Alto saxophonist Carl Bartlett, Jr.'s musical bloodlines run deep. The son of Carl Bartlett, Sr. and nephew of Charles Bartlett (who formed an R&B show and dance band "The Bartlett Contemporaries"), Carl, Jr. has the pedigree. He also has the chops. Bartlett attended the Manhattan School of Music. In his short career he has graced the stage with Wynton Marsalis
, Lonnie Liston Smith
, Roy Hargrove
and others. Along with the members of his quartet (Yoichi Uzeki on piano, Dylan Shamat on upright bass and drummer Dwayne "Cook" Broadnax), Bartlett performed a stellar set of originals and standards at the intimate Kitano jazz and supper club nestled within New York City's Kitano Hotel.
The crowd was abuzz with anticipation prior to the first of two sold-out sets as they settled into their seats and the musicians milled about stopping to make small talk with friends and family in the audience. At precisely 8 p.m. the band was introduced. Within a few shot seconds after the initial applause died down, Bartlett, who was nattily dressed in dress slacks, a white shirt and conservative tie, thanked the audience for coming and the band settled into the up-tempo swinging groove of Coleman Hawkins
' and Thelonious Monk
's "I Mean You." The piece featured the young jazzman's clean smooth runs and an extended section of just drums, piano and bass. Toward the end, Bartlett returned to the forefront and led the group through to the end of the tune. At the end, Bartlett again thanked the crowd for coming and the club's booker, Gino, for the opportunity to play the room.
The next tune was the beautiful ballad, "Julie B" which Bartlett named after and on this night dedicated to his mother who was seated on stage right. He said, "Happy birthday, Mom. I hope you enjoy this." The piece definitely straddles both traditional and modern jazz featuring a beautiful soft piano opening, soulful saxophone, a nice clean tasty bass line and muted drums on which Broadnax used brushes for the main sections and occasionally mallets for the flourished on the cymbals. "Pensativa" with its bossa nova beat followed. During Cook's mini drum break, Bartlett could be seen off to the side nodding his head in unison to the syncopated time keeping, bopping to the rhythm and snapping his fingers to the beat. The tune then segued into "U.M.M.G (Upper Manhattan Medical Group)," a fast swing number composed by Billy Strayhorn
When the medley ended, Bartlett announced that the next tune, an original called "Fidgety Season" was inspired by the children he taught at Martin Luther Middle School. The piece shifted between a waltz-like tempo and 5/4 time. The piece started smoothly and switched to a jittery tempo as the band dove into it and sped into a fever pitch behind Cook's madman drumming and Uzeki's nimble fingers dancing across the Steinway all the while Shamat remained steady supplying the underlying bass. Bartlett again took center stage, brought it down a notch and brought the tune home.
The first set came to a close with Sonny Rollins
' "Pent-Up House." Rollins would have been proud had he heard Bartlett's 10 minute take on his classic tune. It was clean, fast and amazing.
On this evening in the intimate jazz club, the musicianship and skill put forth on the small stage was nothing less than stunning. The music had movement, life and vitality. Each of the member of the quartet could be classified as virtuosos. Bartlett's saxophone was powerful, strong and sweet with a tone that only the greats have the ability attain, Cook played with ferocity and skill, Shamat's solid bass was both understated and driving and Uzeki's fingers danced across the ivory keys at a phenomenal speed which had to be seen to be believed. The four men should be regarded as the future of modern jazz.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon
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[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon