by Renee Tomell
Source: On the Go Online : Suburban Life Publications
Breaks both good and bad helped launch Frank Catalano into the stratosphere among saxophone players. The Hanover Park native graduated in 1999 from DePaul University with a degree in classical composition. A performer, composer and recording artist, he is also a well-known arranger whose music is licensed for television and film. He has played with artists from Miles Davis and Tony Bennett to Destiny’s Child, and this spring with Seal on Oprah’s show.
Frank Catalano is ranked one of the top saxophonists in the world.
Talk about your collaboration with legendary drummer Louis Bellson, when you were 14. It was at a clinic at Elgin Community College (a beloved alma mater). Louis Bellson was the guest artist and he heard me play and I sat in with him. We kept in touch. At 16, he was taking me on the road, hiring me for stuff. When I was 17, I got to play at the Grammys.
Why did you pick the saxophone? When I was in fifth grade, I went to a band day, where a guy was demonstrating all the instruments. My brother played football, (so) I thought maybe tuba in a marching band looked fun. My mom (said), ‘It’s not that happening of an instrument.’ I saw the flute, clarinet, trumpet. Then he picked up the saxophone. I thought it looked really cool. He never (actually) played it. Being somebody always up for a challenge … I thought I’d try that one, even though I didn’t know what it sounded like.
Explain how almost losing a middle finger and being unable to use it for a year in your teens turned into a positive? I was using my right index finger to do both keys essentially. It was pretty unheard of. It helped me build up a different kind of technique — maybe a better one. In DownBeat magazine, I rank as one of the top 10 sax players in the world.
One of your instruments has an interesting pedigree. I own one of John’s Coltrane’s saxophones. To me he was the epitome … (playing with) an energy, also a spirituality and a deepness that encompassed everything that I think makes a saxophone so special to me.
What have you been working on? Drummer Peter Erskine of Weather Report and I are doing a sax and drums album I’m excited about. In light of three of my favorite (drummers) passing away, it’s a tribute of sorts to them (Louis Bellson and Coltrane collaborators Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali). (Catalano’s latest album is ‘Bang’, and a new Columbia Records project is due out in the spring.)