On Sorry, No Decaf Saxophonist Joel Frahm displays an admirable compositional pen, and a commanding presence on tenor and soprano sax. Frahm enlists longtime associate and fine bandleader in his own right, drummer Matt Wilson along with pianist David Berkman and bassist Doug Weiss.
The opener, Frahm’s “Smokey Joel” features a catchy, memorable melody line as Frahm’s tenor sax work proceeds to burn the house down through fluid, clear toned and articulate phrasing. Here, Frahm is a fleet fingered and fierce jazz machine while pianist David Berkman reinvents the melody, displaying an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz-piano improv through brief yet poignant thematic statements. “Smokin Joel” should fare well in the jazz-radio market. Frahm picks up the soprano sax on his affable and bouncy composition titled, “Elroy Sparta”. David Berkman’s “Interesting Perhaps, but Hardly Fascinating Rhythm” is a strong composition and perhaps a nod to Ornette Coleman featuring Matt Wilson’s brief yet melodic drum solo which touches upon the late drummer Ed Blackwell.
Frahm and Berkman perform a spirited version of the Raskin/Mercer classic “Laura”. On “Laura” Frahm stays in line with the old masters as he performs with grace and finesse. Here, Frahm’s renderings on tenor sax rekindle memories of masters such as Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. Frahm’s “Sorry, No Decaf” features clever polyrhythmic drumming from Matt Wilson and a strong lyrical bass solo from the venerable Doug Weiss. On this track we find Frahm with tenor in hand steering the band through peaks and valleys; hence, another fine original composition from the pen of Frahm. Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes and the old time favorite “Pennies From Heaven” are straight forward yet don’t provide the knockout blow heard in Frahm’s originals and the lone contribution from David Berkman. Nevertheless, Sorry, No Decaf is a first rate project and should launch Frahm’s career a few notches. Frahm has laudable chops, a great pen and should emerge as a formidable stylist. *** ½