by Bill Meredith
Every musician’s playing is an extension of his or her personality, and tenor saxophonist Frank Catalano’s natural exuberance is on display throughout his sixth CD, BANG! The Chicago native draws from a hometown hero in saxophonist Von Freeman, an early mentor in organist Charles Earland, and plenty of R&B as he plays the way he talks, in short, barely controlled bursts. Most of the 10 tracks on BANG! are four minutes or less.
The first three—the title track, “Soul Burner” and “Shakin’”—are all groove-oriented numbers emphasizing the playing of Catalano and electric pianist Scott Williams within the sparse, rhythmic framework created by bassist Adam Whitson, drummer Daron Nelson and percussionist Chris Paquette. Occasionally, the 31-year-old saxophonist has too much to say. On the Guy Wood/Robert Mellin standard “My One and Only Love,” he delivers a showy, squawking rendition that might be better suited to a live performance than a studio recording.
Blame it on his youth, but give him points for at least pushing the standard envelope. Catalano’s later originals, like “Damn Right” and “Funky Dunky,” feature his clean, articulate lines on pieces that straddle the fence between jazz and funk. It’s the kind of hybrid style he’s worked on since getting into a Chicago jazz club at age 17 to sub for Earland’s absent saxophonist. Catalano plays alto flute on “Night Moves,” another piece bearing an Earland influence through Williams’ soulful keyboards. The saxophonist closes with Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” which gets a dub-style, programmed arrangement. Not exactly standard fare, again, but it sure ends the CD with a bang.