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Carl Bartlett, Jr.: Hopeful

Dan McClenaghan By

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Alto saxophonist Carl Bartlett, Jr. was pushing his late twenties when he figured it was high time that he put out a CD. Hopeful resulted, and the Queens, New York native proved he was more than ready for the task. Opening boldly, with a five minute sax solo—the disc's title tune—the young artist announces his arrival. It is a pensive and reverent jazz exploration, and perhaps something of a prayer, and it sounds as if he may have been able to put out an entire solo album with success; and when you're talking saxophone, very few (only soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome comes immediately to mind) can pull that feat off.

Barlett cites influences such as saxophonists Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt, But "Fidgety Season," with its edgy shifts between waltz and 5/4 time, combined with the leader's tart, dry tone and sharp angles, is reminiscent of altoist Jackie McLean's approach.

Of the six originals presented here, none is more beautiful than "Julie B." With a gorgeous intro by pianist Sharp Radway, it is a heartfelt ode Bartlett's mother, showcasing the saxophonist's deft and soulful—and sentimental—touch with the ballad form, with his band delivering just the right light and delicate accompaniment. Barlett draws long, sweet lines, and seems to say "Never Let Me Go," as the tune winds down, teary-eyed.

Barlett closes the set out with a ten minute take on the standard, "It Could Happen to You." Joined by his uncle, Charles Bartlett, on trumpet—who plays with a bright, fiery sass that brings trumpeter Lee Morgan to mind. It's an up-tempo bop romp, with leader and band sounding particularly inspired.

Bartlett closes out this excellent debut with some fun, the familiar "I Love Lucy," the theme from one of the most popular situation comedies of all time. Beginning in a ballad mode, the band then shifts into full forward momentum, with a swing, for a rousing wrap to Hopeful.

Track Listing: Hopeful; Fidgety Season; Julie B.; Quantum Leaps (And Bounds); Release; Seven Up; It Could Happen To You; I Love Lucy.

Personnel: Carl Bartlett, Jr.: alto saxophone; Sharp Radway: piano; Eric Lemon: bass; Emanuel Harrold: drums; Charles Bartlett: trumpet (7); Ron Jackson: guitar (4).

Title: Hopeful | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced

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