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May 2006

Glenn Astarita By

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Frank Catalano

Mighty Burner

Bright Records


Tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano huffs, puffs and blows the house down during these torrid jazz-rock numbers. During years of touring with the late organist Charles Earland ("The Mighty Burner ), drummer Louis Bellson and crooner Tony Bennett, the saxophonist has acquired uncanny maturity for a 27 year-old artist. He's the primary soloist throughout these six pieces, often featuring blistering straight-four grooves and soulful overtones. With his quartet and guest artists along for the ride, Catalano's massive sound and raucous mode of attack is energy well spent. He's a rebel rouser via his grueling honks, squeals and fluently articulated flurries, spiced up with raspy overtones. Add his seemingly unstoppable momentum and broad jazz-based vernacular, and this is a pumped-up affair, teeming with guts, glory and plenty of chutzpah!



ReR Megacorp


The duo of Anna Homler and Stephanie Payne derives the album title from actress Kim Novak's cat in the flick Bell, Book and Candle. They employ various toys, keyboards, samples and hard-to-decipher vocals to conjure up a sense of antiquity through alien frameworks and macabre and quaint storylines. They abide by the less-is-more adjunct, complete with oscillating background treatments. Guest artist Ethan Holztman adds accordion tracks to this perversely enticing session, awash with crafty experimentation and innocence of execution. Homler is a well-known West Coast improviser who has performed with many jazz musicians, yet this outing should be deemed unclassifiable. And that of course, can be a good thing unto itself!

Speakers for the Dead

Prey for Murder

Magna Carta


This Northern California-based progressive metal band offers many of the familiar ingredients from the scene: gruff, screaming vocals, blitzing guitars and odd-metered time signatures. However, lead vocalist Curtis Shamlin does sweeten the pot on occasion with a few wistfully melodic moments performed within an assortment of verse-chorus etudes. And Speakers for the Dead don't look like your typical metal crew. In fact, the musicians sport short haircuts and casual attire, without all the usual pomp and circumstance surrounding this genre. Guitarist (and cage fighter) Jason Garcia suffered a serious illness during the time of this recording. Yet according to the press materials, the artist was able to work through the studio session and will presumably tour with the band while receiving treatment. Overall, this CD exposes the group's strong musicality, which complements their largely hammering impetus.

Absolute Quintet

Dafnis Prieto



Cuban drummer/percussionist Dafnis Prieto is a wunderkind who absorbs various musical channels and influences, not just Afro-Cuban music. His former employer, saxophonist/composer Henry Threadgill, appears on one track here. Marked by his polyrhythmic aplomb within difficult-to-navigate time signatures, the drummer's second outing for this record label looms as an extension of his previous one. With violinist Christian Howes, keyboardist Jason Lindner and others, the quintet sprinkles the Latin jazz genre with East Indian modal practices, turbulent groove-based movements and more. Prieto's compositions, which feature strings, horns and fast-moving thematic forays, are firmed up with strong melody lines and breakneck speed diversions. But it all makes near-perfect sense. Not only is Prieto carving out an impressive sideman persona, but he's also looming as a forward-thinking jazz acolyte who mingles enviable chops with a new approach to modern jazz.


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