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Saxophonist Paul Carr Releases 2nd Solo Album, Just Noodlin' on Jazz Karma Records


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One of the finest horn players in the DC metropolitan area, saxophonist Paul Carr is proud to announce the release of his second album as a leader, Just Noodlin', on Jazz Karma Records. The outing features a who's who of DC-based musicians as well as featured guest soloist Terell Stafford, a longtime friend. “Terell used to appear with me when I had a weekly gig at Takoma Station in Takoma Park, Maryland," says Carr. Since those days, Stafford has gone on to become Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University and has recorded as a leader most notably for MaxJazz. He has appeared on over 100 recordings as a sideman. Here Stafford's refined tone and technique are showcased alongside Carr's burly Mobley-inspired tenor.

His first release in over 10 years, Carr returned to the studio after many years as a sideman and teacher to literally hundreds of students. These students were a large impetus behind this release. “My students and my wife, Karmen, were so supportive of my playing over the last ten years," says the saxophonist. It was largely at their urging that Carr realized he had to record again. “But you know, I too felt it was time to take things to the next level to record and perform as a leader."

Just Noodlin' strives for the soulfulness and intensity that Carr's bands get on stage. Composed of all complete takes without overdubs, Carr says “I wanted a live feel to try to approximate the sound that we get live on a club date."

In addition to Stafford, pianist Andrew Adair (formerly of Donald Harrison's band), bassist Gavin Fallow, and drummer Steve Williams (25-year-long accompanist to Shirley Horn) make up the core of the group. Other tracks feature pianists Bob Butta & Vince Evans, bassist Michael Bowie (who has served as musical director for Abbey Lincoln), percussionist Sam Turner, and drummer Harold Summey (1st prize winner of the first Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition for drumset).

Carr weaves through a program of five originals and four standards including John Coltrane's reharmonization of George Gershwin's “But Not For Me," a samba take on Burt Bacharach's “Alfie," a stunning old-school rendition of “You've Changed," and Hank Mobley's “Pat 'n' Chat."

The title track, “Just Noodlin'," was written by happenstance as Carr was practicing his horn and playing around on the piano. “In the South, where I come from, they call this noodlin'," he says. The melody brings the 1960s Blue Note sound to mind, while the solos remind the listener that the musicians are very firmly rooted in the present. Pianist Andrew Adair's comping recalls McCoy Tyner while the aggressive playing of drummer Steve Williams highlights the rhythm section's hard-grooving style which lets the soloists stretch out as they would on a jam session.

The second track, “Blue & Brown," is one of two compositions contributed by Washington-based pianist Rueben Brown, who has recorded for Steeplechase Records. The tune is a blues but has a unique harmonic treatment as such. The laid-back swing feel is anchored by the syncopated bass figure introduced in the first few bars of the song.

“Krush Groove," easily the most accessible song on the album has an R&B tinge. “I wrote this song to demonstrate the many grooves that can be effectively married with swingfunk, reggae, Latin, whateverit all swings." Note the alternation between the funky yet swinging refrain and the bouncy reggae bridge. Stafford's solo recalls a lush sound reminiscent of Tom Harrell.

“I was inspired to record Bill Carey's 'You've Changed,' while listening to the Dexter Gordon album, Ballads. I just love the way Dexter plays this tune." One can easily hear the influence of Hawkins, Webster Gordon, and Coltrane in Carr's tone and stylistic approach. Another residual influence in Carr's sound is the signature post-bop vocabulary of Hank Mobley. Widely regarded as a great saxophonist, Mobley is rarely given his due as a composer. The catchy “Pat 'n' Chat," first appeared on the saxophonist's 1963 Blue Note date, The Turnaround, but has rarely been recorded since. It is included here as a tribute to Mobley.

Having played Burt Bacharach's “Alfie" so many times on gigs, Carr decided to record this classic with a Brazilian twist. So he asked a good friend, pianist Vince Evans, to write a samba arrangement for this project. The result is a wonderful interpretation of a familiar tune as the trumpet and soprano's timbres tenderly complement each other.

On a much freer note, “Dixie Pig" is another Reuben Brown composition that recalls a blues that might have been written by Thad Jones or Ornette Coleman for the unique rhythmic feel and stop time on the head. Expect an engaging couple of minutes as Carr's soprano and Stafford boppish trumpet trade fours. “The band plays it more freely than the original recording and it sets the stage for Terrell and I to have an animated conversation on our instruments."

Carr's uptempo rendering of Gershwin's “But Not for Me" was originally recorded as a departure from the original by John Coltrane with slightly altered chord changes and a different statement of the theme than the more familiar version made popular by singers such as Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald. Carr does the majority of the noodlin' on this one, with a shorter solo by Adair.

The last tune on the record features a quietly beautiful interpretation by Stafford with soulful obliggato lines by the tenor. “I originally played 'If I Can Help Somebody' with an exceptionally talented Washington-based vocalist, Ronnie Wells," explains Carr. Ms. Wells owns and runs Jazz Karma Records and frequently calls on Carr as her saxophonist of choice. The piece lends a unique gospel quality to an album that is otherwise heavily blowing-oriented. “I love [Ronnie's husband]'s arrangement and felt an instrumental version would sound good. I think it worked out very well."

Paul Carr Biography

Known for his hard-charging and soulful post-bop style of playing, saxophonist Paul Carr upholds the important tradition of the Texas tenor. Growing up, he played with saxophonists Don Wilkerson, Arnett Cobb and the fabled educator Conrad Johnson. After two years at Texas Southern University, Carr completed his degree in music performance at Howard University in Washington, DC.

His 1993 recorded debut as a leader, PC10 on Jazz Karma Records received critical praise from The Washington Post, The Houston Post, and USA Today, as well as magazines including DownBeat, Cadence, and JazzTimes. Since PC10, Carr has appeared on over 25 other recordings as a sideman.

Carr's strong commitment to jazz is most evident in his role as an educator. After over 20 years of teaching privately, Carr launched the Jazz Academy of Music, Inc., a non-profit corporation dedicated to “advancing and preserving jazz through jazz education." The Academy holds year-round workshops and a summer camp where Carr and a staff of local musicians teach high school students the principles of improvisation, small group, and big band playing.

Many of his students have been selected for state, and national jazz groups including the Maryland All-State Jazz Ensemble, the IAJE Clifford Brown Fellows, and the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy High School Jazz Ensemble. His students have been accepted to jazz programs at Julliard, Eastman, The New England Conservatory, The Manhattan School of Music, and The New School.

After a 13-year hiatus from recording as a leader, Carr recently returned to the studio to complete his second album on Jazz Karma Records, Just Noodlin', featuring world-renowned trumpeter Terrell Stafford, a longtime friend.

Since arriving in Washington over twenty years ago, Carr has performed regularly on the local scene at venues including Blues Alley, Twins Jazz, Takoma Station, and the now-defunct One Step Down. He has also been a repeat performer at The White House, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Smithsonian Institution, and The Corcoran Gallery of Art's jazz series. He has toured South America, Europe, and the Middle East and has shared the stage with George Colligan, Kent Jordan, Eddie Henderson, Charles Fambrough, Gary Bartz, Shirley Scott, Branford Marsalis, Steve Wilson, Tim Warfield, Terrell Stafford, and Wynton Marsalis, among many others.

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